A landmark exhibition opening at the Walker Art Center on November 11, Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950, views how Cuba’s revolutionary epoch shaped 65 years of Cuban art. This powerful and unprecedented exhibition establishes a new narrative focused on the experiences of artists who lived and trained in Cuba and is a rare opportunity to discover 100 of the most important works of painting, graphic design, photography, video, installation, and performance, created by more than 50 Cuban artists and designers. Conceived by the Cisneros Fontanals Fundación Para Las Artes (CIFO Europa) and The Cisneros Fontanals Arts Foundation (CIFO USA), the exhibition is organized in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Museum advisors on the project are Olga Viso, executive director at the Walker Art Center, and Mari Carmen Ramírez, the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art at the MFAH, both known experts in contemporary Latin American Art.
Anchored by key moments of 20th- and 21st-century Cuban history, Adiós Utopia is the most comprehensive and important presentation of modern and contemporary Cuban art shown in the United States since 1944, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented Modern Cuban Painters. Although many artists have since emigrated from Cuba to live and work abroad, Adiós Utopia focuses on the untold narrative of those artists who remained in Cuba, were educated under the revolutionary educational system, and whose careers evolved after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Through a selection of pivotal artworks—created in each of seven decades since 1950—the exhibition explores Cuba’s artistic production through the lens of its artists, illuminating both the dreams and deceptions contained within the revolutionary process and the idea of utopia.
Olga Viso, Walker Art Center executive director, commented, “Through a selection of pivotal artworks, created in each of seven decades since 1950, the exhibition explores Cuba’s artistic production through the lens of utopia, both its construction and its deconstruction. Adiós Utopia will introduce U.S. audiences to key events in Cuban history and explore how this history affected individual artists, shaped the character of art produced on the island, and conditioned the reception of Cuban art both in Cuba and abroad. The exhibition also offers a big, institutional, pan-disciplinary moment for the Walker, in which we have all programs involved in exploring the art of Cuba across disciplines.”
“CIFO Europa was created to be a platform for Latin American art to the world,” Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, founder of CIFO Europa said. “Research for the Adiós Utopia project was initiated by CIFO Europa several years ago with a team of important Cuban curators. I am so delighted that the foundation has led the way to bring this notable exhibition to cities across the U.S., and in collaboration with these prestigious institutions.”
Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950 explores Cuba’s cultural and political history through the nation’s artistic production. The exhibition was conceived in 2013 by the Cisneros Fontanals Fundación Para Las Artes (CIFO Europa) of Cuban-born collector and philanthropist Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, who has pioneered efforts to bring visibility and recognition to the work of Cuba’s artists. The Adiós Utopia tour is being co-organized by the MFAH and the Walker Art Center. A related, comprehensive book being published in English and in Spanish by CIFO Europa, Cuban Art: Dreams and Deceptions Since 1950, will accompany the exhibition. The volume includes contributions by renowned Cuban-art experts; an illustrated chronology of major cultural events on the island over the last 65 years; as well as a selection of images of emblematic works that goes beyond the works featured in the exhibition.
The exhibition charts the development of artistic production on the island from just before the overthrow of the Cuban republican government by the revolution in 1959; through the period of revolutionary euphoria and Cuba’s alliance with the Soviet Bloc; to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and Cuba’s ongoing isolation and economic distress.
Drawing from more than two dozen collections in North America, the Caribbean, and Europe, Adiós Utopia showcases key works from each decade that were pivotal to the evolution of Cuban art. The project’s initiator, and a key lender to the exhibition, is philanthropist and collector Ella Fontanals-Cisneros. The collection is distinguished by a strong concentration in Cuba’s lesser-known modern painters of the 1950s and 60s; these works form the narrative of the exhibition’s first section.
With Cuban art increasingly visible in the United States and abroad, Adiós Utopia provides an unprecedented context for understanding the recent surge of interest in the art of Cuba and around US/Cuba relations. Rather than offer a historical survey, the exhibition’s thematic narrative explores how Cuban artists charted, commented on, and confronted the social and political programs set in motion by the Cuban Revolution through pivotal artistic movements: the Geometric Abstraction of the 1950s; the Pop Art–inspired figurative revival of the 1960s and 1970s, with a focus on the surge of documentary photography and graphic design, particularly in posters; the postmodern critical explorations of Nuevo Arte Cubano (New Cuban Art) during the 1980s; and the increasingly global and interdisciplinary artistic practices since the 1990s. The exhibition also introduces several major artists who are unknown outside of Cuba, including artists working in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s who have had little or no exposure beyond the island nation.
Rather than provide an exhaustive survey or totalizing account of Cuban art, the aim of Adiós Utopia is to reveal the dialogue and frictions among constellations of works that embody Cuba’s utopian spirit and bring artists together across generations around shared themes.
The first section, The Utopia of Concrete Art, presents a choice selection of little known works from the 1950s, when a Constructive art movement flourished briefly on the island. Artists like Sandú Darié envisioned art in the construction of a utopia—one that drew on European modernist principles—quite different from the ideals ushered in by the 1959 Revolution. Until very recently, this work has rarely been exhibited in the context of Cuban modernism, and the focus has usually been on its vernacular traditions or seen as an anomaly outside of Cuban modernism.
The second section, Cult and Deconstruction of the Revolutionary Nation, features photography, sculpture, painting, and installations that chart the formation of national symbols in revolutionary Cuba, as well as the eventual subversion of these symbols by contemporary Cuban artists. Alberto Korda’s photograph of Ernesto (Che) Guevara filtered into global popular culture in the 1960s and remains the most widely known and recognizable image of the Cuban Revolution.
The third section, The Imposition of Words: Discourse, Rhetoric, and Media Controls, addresses the major roles of public speech and censorship in Cuban society. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Fidel Castro and his fellow revolutionaries made effective use of news media and photojournalism to spread images that represented the popularity of their revolutionary project. Raúl Corrales remains one of the greatest photographers of the period, with images that represented watershed moments, such as Castro’s First Havana Declaration to the General Assembly of Cuban People (ratified by over one million citizens), a critical response to US imperialism and foreign intervention in Latin American affairs.
The fourth section, Sea, Borders, Exile, highlights the significance of Cuba’s status as an island in the revolutionary process. Surrounded by water, its insular nature facilitated control of the borders. Mass exile, in a country that had been a destination for immigrants, has been a dramatic process for the country, which art has explored eloquently. During the early years of the Special Period, an intensely difficult time caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, photographer Manuel Piña produced now-famous poetic images along the Malecón, Havana’s Northern sea wall, which became the most conspicuous border to the outside world.
The fifth section, Inverted Utopias, Lost Illusions, charts the ways that art in Cuba has acted as a public space—albeit a limited one—for critique and reflection about political revolution, taking on roles that mass media, public assemblies, and civil society have not been permitted to take. In the 1990s, the collaborative work of artists Eduardo Ponjuán and René Francisco led the way for a new generation of conceptual and performance artists on the island and abroad. This section will also present works of art that responded to Cuba’s crumbling economy and utopian ambitions. The Oro seco [Dry Gold] series by photographer Ricardo Elías presents haunting images of abandoned architecture and machinery that once enabled sugar production, historically the country’s most lucrative export.
Additional resources, including a list of artists, are available here.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: March 5, 2017–May 21, 2017
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis: November 11, 2017–March 18, 2018
Organizing Curators, Havana
Gerardo Mosquera, independent curator
Mosquera is a noted curator, critic, art historian, and writer. He was one of the founding organizers of the first Bienal de la Habana, in 1984, and was founder of the Wifredo Lam Center in Havana. From 1995 to 2009 he was adjunct curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York. Since 1995 he has been advisor to the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, and MUAC in Mexico City, among other international art centers. Mosquera has lectured widely and curated exhibitions in more than 70 countries over the past 20 years.
René Francisco Rodríguez, artist, teacher, and independent curator
A longtime curator and internationally recognized contemporary artist, Rodríguez is a professor at Havana’s Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), where he has been known for mentoring generations of Cuban artists since the 1990s. In 1989 he founded the educational project DUPP, Desde una Pedagogía Pragmática (Through a Pragmatic Pedagogy), and revolutionized teaching methods by taking art students out of the studio and into the “real world”. In 2000, during the seventh Bienal de la Habana, DUPPP was awarded a UNESCO prize. He holds an honorary doctorate in fine arts from the San Francisco Art Institute (2001), and was recognized with the prestigious Cuban National Prize in Fine Arts (2010). His artwork has been exhibited internationally, including in Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United States.
Elsa Vega, independent curator
Specializing in Cuban art of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Vega has been curator of Cuban art at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA) since 1993. One of her curatorial hallmarks is the permanent exhibition Otras perspectivas del arte Cubano (Other Perspectives on Cuban Art) 1951–1963, which has been on permanent display at the MNBA in Havana since July 2001. Vega has organized numerous national collection exhibitions and co-curated a number of international exhibitions in Brazil, Canada, Holland, and Spain. She has written widely for exhibition catalogues and art publications. Vega has twice been awarded the Annual Prize for Cultural Research and is a member of the Cuban National Heritage Commission.
Museum Advisors, Minneapolis and Houston
Olga Viso, executive director, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Born in Florida to Cuban émigré parents, Viso is well-known for her expertise in contemporary Latin American art, including her groundbreaking survey of the work of Cuban expatriate artist Ana Mendieta, which originated in 2004 at the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. Prior to being appointed director of the Walker Art Center in 2008, Viso had been curator of contemporary art and then director of the Hirshhorn. She is a member of the National Council on the Arts, and she served on the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions.
Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art, MFAH, and director, International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA)
Ramírez has curated numerous critically acclaimed exhibitions of Latin American art over the last 15 years, including Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America (2004), and monographic surveys of the work of Antonio Berni, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Gego, and Hélio Oiticica. At the ICAA, Ramírez launched and has overseen Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art: A Digital Archive and Publications Project, an extensive initiative to source, digitize, and publish some 10,000 primary sources fundamental to research in Latin American and Latino art.
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OPENING EVENTS AND PROGRAMS
Opening Weekend Celebration
Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950
Join us for a two-day celebration of the new exhibition, featuring a preview party, performances, panel discussions, gallery tours, and more. For details, visit walkerart.org.
After Hours: Adiós Utopia
Friday, November 10, 9 pm–12 midnight
$15 (Free for Walker members)
Say hello to Walker After Hours. This late-night preview party will be your first look at Adiós Utopia, the most significant exhibition of Cuban art shown in the United States in decades. Celebrate to the beat of music by Charanga Tropical, Malamanya, and DJ Don Cuco and indulge in specialty cocktails and small bites. Get your hands dirty at a drop-in screenprinting workshop and capture the spirit of the night in a decked-out photo booth.
Escape to the Garden Terrace Room for live music and dance to DJ Don Cuco’s mixes all night long in the Cargill Lounge.
9 pm: Charanga Tropica
10.45 pm: Malamanya
All night: DJ Don Cuco
Comidas y Bebidas
Enjoy complimentary small bites and sip a specialty cocktail from the cash bar.
Drop in to the Art Lab to pull your own silkscreen prints inspired by revolutionary posters in Adiós Utopia. Experiment with layering and contribute your artwork to a temporary installation.
Walker members receive up to two free tickets to every After Hours party. Call 612.375.7655 or join at walkerart.org/membership.
Saturday, November 11 Free
Exploring the Theme of Utopia, 10:15 am
Artist Talks, 1 and 3 pm
Learn more about the exhibition during a panel discussion with Cuban independent curators Gerardo Mosquera, René Francisco Rodríguez, and Elsa Vega moderated by Mari Carmen Ramírez. Two afternoon talks feature a multigenerational group of artists from Cuba. Speakers include José Bedia, Iván Capote, Yoan Capote, Yaima Carrazana, José Figueroa, Reynier Leyva Novo, Wilfredo Prieto, and Sandra Ramos.
These programs are made possible by generous support from Aaron and Carol Mack.
Opening Weekend Tours
Saturday–Sunday, November 11–12, 12 noon
Free with gallery admission
Discover the stories behind the works on view during a guided tour in English or Spanish.
Teatro El Público: Antigonón, un contingente épico
Thursday–Saturday, January 4–6, 8 pm
$25 ($20 Walker members)
“Simply spectacular.… The magic touch of one of our best directors today gives body and new resonance to Antigone.” —Cuba Si
With sharp humor and shocking currency, director Carlos Diaz—Havana’s leading provocateur in the underground counterculture of fashion, theater, and drag—confronts the tyrannical themes of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone. In this internationally acclaimed production, highly physical performers put on exotically absurd costumes at a rapid-fire pace. While doing so, they guide us through flashbacks set against a backdrop of archival news footage that connects the past with the present in unnerving and profound ways.
Join the artists for a workshop or meet them after the show in the Walker’s Cityview Bar. For details, visit walkerart.org/stage. You can also find out more by visiting walkerart.org/tickets; or calling the box office at 612.375.7600.
Saturdays and Sundays, 12 noon
Free with gallery admission
Discover the stories behind the works in Adiós Utopia. Guided tours are offered every weekend.
Tours in Spanish
Thursdays, 6 pm Free
November 16, December 14, January 18, February 15, and March 15
Explore the exhibition on Target Free Thursday Nights with a Spanish-language tour. Private group tours in Spanish are also available upon request. For more information, contact email@example.com.
Sandra Levinson: Cuban Posters from 1960s to Present Day
Thursday, November 30, 6:30 pm Free
Join Sandra Levinson, executive director of the Center of Cuban Studies (CSS) in New York City, for a discussion about her long history with Cuba and Cuban art. CSS houses the largest collection of Cuban posters in the country, with thousands of original and rare examples ranging from the 1960s to the present day, all of which she carried across the border herself. See many of the works in person and learn from this sage of contemporary Cuban art.
Made in Cuba/Hecho en Cuba
Squirrel Haus Arts, 3450 Snelling Ave., St. Paul
November 17, 2017–January 15, 2018
An exhibition of contemporary Cuban art and photography from CCS, organized by Sandra Levinson.
Free First Saturday: ¡Hola Cuba!
Saturday, January 6, 10 am–3 pm Free
Warm up this winter at the Walker! Dance to Latin-inspired beats, print an original poster, and explore Adiós Utopia. At 2 pm, join a Spanish-language tour. Gallery admission is free for everyone on the first Saturday of each month from 10 am to 6 pm, with a variety of family activities scheduled from 10 am to 3 pm.
Lynn Hershman Leeson: Tania Libre
Thursday, November 16, 7 pm Free
Soon after the United States and Cuba agreed to renew diplomatic ties, Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera announced a public performance in which the people of Havana would be given a platform for one minute of free speech. She was arrested before the event even began. Seated in a therapy session, Bruguera talks about how censorship, cultural trauma, and her time in prison have impacted her personally and shaped her work as an artist. 2017, DCP, 64 minutes.
Adiós Utopia: Cuban Cinema After the Revolution
February 2018 Price ($ Walker members)
In the 1960s, groundbreaking Cuban filmmakers found their own aesthetic, pushing beyond the influences of Europe and Hollywood, to gain international recognition. Selected classics celebrate how they redefined memories, decolonized culture, and illuminated Cuba’s revolutionary dreams and deceptions. This series features two recently restored classics from Cuban cinema: Lucía (1968) by Humberto Solás and Memories of Underdevelopment (1968) by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s earlier surrealist farce, Death of a Bureaucrat (1966), and Sara Gómez’s radical, romantic drama One Way or Another (1973) will also be presented in the Walker Cinema. All films are in Spanish with English subtitles. For details, visit walkerart.org.
Film in Community: Remembering the Neighborhood Media Project
This fall and winter, the Walker presents free Cuban films in community centers throughout the Twin Cities. The four-part series highlights the connections between the political spirit of the Neighborhood Media Project, which collaborated with various local organizations in the 1980s, and similar postrevolutionary Cuban projects. A panel discussion with Neighborhood Media Project organizers and Cuban film experts follows each screening. The panel will also be aired on the St. Paul Neighborhood Network’s community access channel. Films are in Spanish with English subtitles. For details, visit walkerart.org.
Ian Padrón, Van Van Fever (Eso que anda) (2009)
Tuesday, November 14, 5:30 pm
Sabathani Center, 310 E 38th Street, Minneapolis
Sara Gómez, One Way or Another (De cierta manera) (1974)
Wednesday, December 6, 6 pm
Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, 270 N Kent Street, St. Paul
Octavio Cortázar, The Teacher (El Brigadista) (1978)
Monday, January 8, 6 pm
Phillips Community Center, 2323 11th Ave. S, Minneapolis
Short Films and Panel Discussion with Franklin Curbelo, Gary Cunningham, and Leola Johnson
Monday, February 12, 6 pm Free
St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN), 550 Vandalia St #170, St. Paul
Serving a cocktail and tasting menu inspired by Cuban art, music, and cuisine. Available for a limited time only: November 11–17. To make a reservation, call 612.375.7542 or visit eskergrove.com.
Where art and food are the perfect pair.
New in the Walker Shop
Unique gifts, clothing, accessories, jewelry, and books in the shop include upcycled products from the Cuban artist cooperative Clandestina and other designers from the island as well as exhibition-related merchandise and a selection of posters. Walker members receive 10% off all purchases. Proceeds support the Walker’s award-winning artistic and educational programs. 612.375.7633 shop.walkerart.org
Exhibition Catalogue: Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950
A beautifully illustrated publication offers a new vision of artistic development and production in Cuba. With more than 250 images from the show and archival documents spanning 60 years, the book includes essays by historians, art critics, curators, and artists as well as a comprehensive chronology. Hardcover $95 ($85.50 Walker members).