Archives of Consciousness: Six Cuban Artists

Mabel Poblet Pujol, Reflected(Reflejada)

Archives of Consciousness: Six Cuban Artists

Walsh Gallery, Quick Center for the Arts

January 24 – May 16, 2020

Featuring recent and key past works by internationally renowned artists, this exhibit explores the many mythologies of liberation and fulfillment promised by modern life as well as the peculiar challenges they represent for island Cubans who must navigate Cuba’s contradictory system of combining capitalism with Communist rule since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Through sculpture, painting, photography and mixed media, artists Roberto Diago, Manuel Mendive, Eduardo (“Choco”) Roca, Abel Barroso, Mabel Poblet and Luis Camejo interrogate the ways that consumerism, migration, patriarchy and the legacies of slavery shape the definitions and differential experiences of freedom that twenty-first-century technology affords all of us. Yet these works anchor the viewer in deeply Cuban locations of consciousness, revealing how austerity and sacrifice, self-reliance and dependence, fear and valor, joy and anguish reflect central principles of survival in a society where egalitarian dreams have long clashed with scarcity, poverty and painful political realities.

In Mendive’s mixed media sculptures and vivid paintings that evoke the spiritual world of Regla de Ocha (the slave-born religion better known as Santería) as well as Mabel Poblet’s deceptively iconic images of feminine beauty in objects made from recrafted photographs, Archives of Consciousness draws on culturally specific worlds of feeling to create visually stunning dialogues of wisdom and understanding. While Luis Camejo’s vast canvases depict Havana’s urban landscapes, punctuated with cars, shoppers and pedestrians, Abel Barroso painstakingly documents the daily struggles of Cubans to claim the right to both knowledge and leisure in whimsical, hand-carved wooden sculptures and intricate collages of hundreds of pencil shavings. Diago’s highly moving spiritual and abstract works made up of geometric pieces of canvas deeply woven together and texturally raw paintings on wooden planks draw on the complexities of his Afro-Cuban heritage and its struggle to survive despite efforts to eradicate it. Master printmaker Choco summons intensity in colorful sculptures and collographs that document how political scrutiny and an exclusionary gaze haunt and historically define the limits of identity and personal freedom for all Cubans, but most especially for those of African descent.

Drawn from the collection of Terri and Steven Certilman, the works of these six artists open up a living archive of thoughts and aspirations, enabling us to reflect on the essences and emotions that make up the paradoxes of life and the strength that comes from their exploration.

Lillian Guerra

Image: Mabel Poblet Pujol, Reflected(Reflejada), 2015, Digital image, PVC, metal, acetate.
Image courtesy of the artist. ©Mabel Poblet Pujol