Fairfield University Art Museum Presents Archives of Consciousness 6 Cuban Artists

Fairfield University Art Museum Presents Archives of Consciousness 6 Cuban Artists

The Fairfield University Art Museum announces an art exhibition featuring works by internationally renowned, legendary artists of Cuba. On view January 24 - May 15, 2020.

Media Contact: Susan Cipollaro, scipollaro@fairfield.edu, 203-254-4000 x2726

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (January 2, 2019) — Fairfield University Art Museum announces the upcoming exhibition Archives of Consciousness: 6 Cuban Artists, opening January 24 and closing May 15, 2020. Featuring recent works by internationally renowned artists of Cuba’s post-Soviet era, this exhibit invites us to witness the struggles and experiences of life in Cuba’s revolutionary society. Together, they illuminate the many ways in which artists stand at the forefront of debate, challenge, and critique of a Communist state that has survived six decades of US hostility – in part by regulating personal freedom and banning dissent. At a time when the United States has withdrawn from the unprecedented opening in US-Cuba diplomatic relations achieved under President Obama (2014-2016), this exhibit speaks to the myriad ways in which systems of power exert control over human efforts to create greater equality and mutual understanding. Through images that regularly converge and, at times, conflict, six participating artists question the boundaries of liberation achieved so far, not only in Cuba, but in every modern society, including our own. Their works interrogate how gendered, racial, sexual, religious, commercial, technological and even entrepreneurial mythologies inhabit our identities and influence our destinies.

Featured in the Fairfield University Art Museum’s exhibition are pieces by Roberto Diago, Manuel Mendive, Eduardo Roca (“Choco”), Abel Barroso, Mabel Poblet, and Luis Enrique Camejo. Representing different generations of artists raised in the culture and evolving process of the Cuban Revolution, their works strike a dialogue across decades of memory and the increasingly paradoxical formula of liberation through authoritarian, one-party rule that has defined Cuba since 1959. With subtle precision, humor, drama, wit, and spectacle, these artists document the complex feelings and angles from which citizens experienced the Cuban government’s shift from an intransigent commitment to Communist culture and a socialist economy to the now thirty-year-long period of state-directed capitalism and continuing Castro family rule (1992-2019).

Against captivating grids of calming ocean hues, Diago depicts the internal space of the mind and the honesty of the individual soul as separate from the theoretically homogeneous collective and pressures of external expectation. Using apparently simple, geometric pieces of deeply woven textiles and wooden planks, he contests the alienation of isolation, creating sanctuaries in nostalgia, knowledge, and the soul. Evoking the heritage of a shared slave past, the master printmaker Choco infuses sculptures and collagraphs (prints produced by inking and pressing textured materials on plates) with references to the particularly intense political scrutiny to which Afro-descended Cubans have historically found themselves subject for national inclusion. Through the recrafting of photographs into objects, images, and three-dimensional art, Mabel Poblet repurposes the conventions of female subjugation in Cuban history to target the act of complicity with patriarchy. With a steady, contemplative gaze, Poblet examines the pain that women’s reduction into mere aesthetic objects of pleasure renders their possibilities.

By contrast, the evocative painter Luis Enrique Camejo looks at urban landscapes, virtually devoid of people, to explore the impact of contemporary dependence on cars, commodities and technology on one’s sense of self, place, and power. In linking politically taboo thoughts of a renewed Cuba “after the flood” to global concerns about climatic catastrophes, Camejo visually recasts the roads of Havana’s now aged, once swanky urban center of La Rampa; a glass-walled shopping mall, Soviet trucks and cars become meditations on the meaning and acceptability of modernity. Likewise, with equal measures of humor and specific historical references to Cuba’s slow, government-controlled entrance into twenty-first-century technologies, Abel Barroso explores the fantasies of freedom that unprecedented communication and global access to information grant only highly privileged Cubans. Known for his whimsical wooden sculptures and intricate collages composed of hundreds of pencil shavings, Barroso’s vision also applies more generally to “first world” societies whose citizens can afford to travel, wield a cell phone, and not emigrate—but visit, enjoy, and return. Mendive, one of Cuba’s legendary artists, encodes his commentaries and the consciousness of artistic protagonists in the light, colors and beliefs of Regla de Ocha, or Santería. In works that range from mixed media sculptures to vivid paintings with applied natural objects, Mendive transforms marginality into narratives; spirituality serves as a protagonist.

Drawn from the personal collection of Terri and Steven Certilman, the works of these six artists speak to the many lives that Cubans have led and the ways in which disillusionment, pain, isolation, protest, beauty, healing, and the spiritual mind form the documents of a resilient collective consciousness. As a living archive of thoughts and aspirations, this art enables us to reflect on the essences and emotions that make up the contradictions of our lives and explore the strength that comes from challenge and reflection on such contradictions. Curated by historian of Cuba Lillian Guerra and art historian and independent curator Arianne Faber Kolb, Archives of Consciousness offers a timely opportunity to meditate on the lessons derived as much from Cuba’s exceptional political and social history as from its citizens’ will to survive, contest, and endure.

In conjunction with the exhibition, and with the assistance of faculty liaison, Dr. Michelle Farrell, the Fairfield University Art Museum has organized a full roster of public programs. 

Thursday, January 23, 5 p.m.
Opening Night Lecture: Archives of Consciousness: 6 Cuban Artists

Dr. Lillian Guerra, Curator of the Exhibition
Professor, Department of History, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Quick Center, Wien Experimental Theatre


Thursday, January 23, 6-7:30 p.m.
Opening Reception: Archives of Consciousness: 6 Cuban Artists

(Artists Mabel Poblet will be in attendance) Music by Ariacne Trujillo Durand
Quick Center, Lobby and Walsh Gallery

Friday, February 7, 1-4 p.m.
Panel: Cuba Today: Internet access, El Paquete, and the New Filmmakers 1:00-2:15 p.m.
Organized and facilitated by Michelle Farrell, PhD.

Javier Labrador Deulofeu, Cuban Filmmaker

Yaima Pardo, Cuban Filmmaker and Internet Activist

Julia Weist, Artist 

Michelle Farrell, PhD., Associate Professor, Fairfield University 

Coffee break: 2:15-2:45

Film Screening – Selection of Cuban Short Films 2:45-4:00 p.m.

Followed by a Roundtable Conversation

DiMenna-Nyselius Library, Multimedia Room


Thursday, February 13, 5 p.m.
Film Screening: Wheel of Life (Patchwork Films, 2015, running time 15 minutes) followed by
Dance Class: Learn the Casino (The Cuban dance that launched the salsa) with instructor Victoria Harel. Organized by Michelle Farrell, PhD.

Quick Center, Wien Experimental Theatre

Wednesday, February 26, 5 p.m.
Lecture: The Art of Manuel Mendive*
Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, PhD., Associate Professor, Department of Art History,
Indiana University

Quick Center, Wien Experimental Theatre

Thursday, April 2, 5 p.m.
Lecture: The Art of Black Mobilization: Afro-Latin American Artists, History and Racial Justice *
Alejandro de la Fuente, PhD., Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

DiMenna-Nyselius Library, Multimedia Room

Thursday, April 9, 11 a.m.
Art in Focus: Manuel Mendive Hoyo, Eleguá Feeds Me (Eleguá me alimenta), 1996

Quick Center, Walsh Gallery

Thursday, April 23, 5 p.m.
Gallery Talk: Collecting Cuban Art, with Steve Certilman

Quick Center, Walsh Gallery


Tuesday, April 28, 7-9 p.m.
Drawing Party: Archives of Consciousness: 6 Cuban Artists
Quick Center, Walsh Gallery


*Part of the Edwin L. Weisl, Jr. Lectureships in Art History, funded by the Robert Lehman Foundation

All events and programs are free and open to the public but registration is requested, and strongly encouraged. www.fairfield.edu, or Eventbrite

For more information visit our bi-lingual exhibition website: www.fairfield.edu/cuba

Posted On: January 2, 2020

Volume: 51 Number: 56

Vol. 51, # 56

Fairfield University is a modern, Jesuit Catholic university rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from the U.S. and across the globe are pursuing degrees in the University’s five schools. Fairfield embraces a liberal humanistic approach to education, encouraging critical thinking, cultivating free and open inquiry, and fostering ethical and religious values. The University is located on a stunning 200-acre campus on the scenic Connecticut coast just an hour from New York City.