AJIACO: STIRRINGS OF THE CUBAN SOUL

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Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London, Connecticut, United States

September 12, 2009 - February 21, 2010

In 1939 Fernando Ortiz first characterized Cuban culture as Ajiaco: a rich stew consisting of a large variety of ingredients cooked until a thick broth is formed. It is this synthesis of the essence of Cuban art. It embraces and visualizes the very nature of the Cuban soul and reveals the depth of its expression. This is the subject of Ajiaco: Stirrings of the Cuban soul. The art incorporates the tales of the Orisha of Africa, the calligraphy of the Tao Te Ching, and the rituals of indigenous peoples. The formats change, the materials vary, but the syncretist mix remains

constant in Cuban and Cuban American art.

The stew becomes thicker as the syncretism evolves into a Post Modern discourse. In the contemporary artworks, the artist has felt motivated, by necessity, to appropriate from history and everyday life. We find in the art an amalgam of forms and images ranging from Pop culture to the Byzantine, and high art to low art, using found materials and precious objects. The

curator writes, "Isolated and yet educated, restricted and yet heralded, the Cuban artist embodies the angst of their situation and yet embraces the loftiest of goals. Their syncretist tradition and heritage allow them to go beyond the monotheistic traditions in order to find the origins of their soul, the geist or inner spirit of their art. "

Gail Gelburd, Ph. D., curator of this project, has been conducting research on Cuban art and artists for over 15 years. She has regularly traveled to Cuba and has lectured for the Havana Biennale, Havana University, and in the Casa Africa in Cuba. She has also lectured about the intersection of art, politics, and spirituality in Taiwan, Korea, South Africa, Australia, England,

and Wales, and at such major institutions as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum, and for Williams College and the Chicago Art Institute. Gelburd has received numerous grants and awards, including a Rockefeller Foundation grant to conduct research on Cuban art, and is publishing a book on Contemporary Cuban art. The article "Beyond the Hype: Cuban art" appeared in Reconstruction: Issues in Contemporary Culture in Winter 2008 and another article "Cuba: The Art of Trading with the Enemy" appears in Art Journal in Spring 2009.

Participating artists: Alejandro Aguilera, Belkis Ayón, Luis Cruz Azaceta, José Bedia, Juan Boza, Marta María Pérez Bravo, Nelson Domínguez, Juan Francisco Elso, Carlos Estévez, Flora Fong, Joel Jover, Wifredo Lam, Laura Luna, Ana Mendieta, Manuel Mendive, Clara Morera, Santiago Rodríguez Olazábal, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Sandra Ramos, Lázaro Saavedra, Tomas Sánchez, Esterio Segura, Cepp Selgas, Leandro Soto, Elio Vilva.