Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950 Presents 65 Years of Cuban Art—the Most Significant Exhibition of Cuban Art in the United States in More than 70 Years
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Cisneros Fontanals Fundación Para Las Artes (CIFO Europa) partner to present the groundbreaking exhibition, opening March 2017 in Houston
Raúl Martínez, Rosas y Estrellas (Roses and Stars), 1972, oil on canvas, courtesy of The Farber Collection, New York. © Raúl Martínez
Houston, TX (Sept. 30, 2016) —The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH); the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Cisneros Fontanals Fundación Para Las Artes (CIFO Europa) today announced the landmark exhibition Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950, which will bring together more than 100 of the most important works of painting, graphic design, photography, video, installation, and performance created by more than 50 Cuban artists and designers over the past six decades. Conceived by CIFO Europa, the exhibition is curated by Cuban independent curators Gerardo Mosquera, René Francisco Rodríguez, and Elsa Vega. Museum advisors on the project include Olga Viso, executive director at the Walker Art Center; and Mari Carmen Ramírez, the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art at the MFAH, who have organized a U.S. tour. A related, comprehensive book is being published in English and in Spanish by CIFO Europa.
Anchored by key moments of 20th- and 21st-century Cuban history, Adiós Utopia is the most comprehensive and significant 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. Adiós Utopia debuts at the MFAH in March 2017 and travels to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in November 2017.
Adiós Utopia looks at how Cuba’s revolutionary aspirations for social utopia—and subsequent disillusionment—shaped 65 years of Cuban art. The exhibition establishes a new narrative focused on the experiences of artists who lived and trained in Cuba.
MFAH director Gary Tinterow commented, “With the easing of relations initiated by President Barack Obama in December 2014, this is an ideal moment for our audiences to gain a greater and deeper understanding of the people and the culture of Cuba. While over the decades artists have emigrated from Cuba to live and work abroad, Adiós Utopia will focus on the untold narrative of those artists who remained in Cuba or whose careers took off after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, and provide a critically important new perspective on that history.”
“Adiós Utopia upends the conventional model of historical surveys of Cuban art,” said Walker Art Center executive director Olga Viso. “Through a selection of pivotal artworks, created in each of six 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.”
Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, founder of CIFO Europa commented, “CIFO Europa was created to be a platform for Latin American art to the world. 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 post-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 under the Castro regime.
“Cuba’s artists have been variously supported, controlled, challenged, and promoted by the Cuban government. They also had to confront unusual obstacles stemming from Cuba’s isolation under the U.S. embargo. All of these factors translate into unusually complex careers and experiences,” said Mari Carmen Ramírez, the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art at the MFAH. “Adiós Utopia will bring Cuban and American colleagues together in an unprecedented collaboration to focus on the artistic experience on the island, as Cuba’s artists wrestled with the hopes, realities, and contradictions of an embargoed social utopia.”
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 will also introduce 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.
Drawing from more than two dozen collections in North America, the Caribbean, and Europe, Adiós Utopia will showcase 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.
Additional resources, including a list of artists, are available here.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: March 5–May 21, 2017
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis: November 11, 2017–March 18, 2018
Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950 is a project conceived by the Cisneros Fontanals Fundación Para Las Artes (CIFO Europa) and organized in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Walker Art Center.
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, Houston and Minneapolis
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.
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 assistant curator, 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.