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On the Way Out:
a Gallery

The Temptation

Proposed Group Show
A la Salida ~ On the Way Out
Rene Pena, Elio Rodríguez, Gertrudis Rivalta,
Andrés Montalbán, and Alexis Esquivel

Organizers: Ariel Ribeaux Diago and Alexis Esquivel, 1998-2000

Artists: René Peña, Elio Rodríguez, Gertrudis Rivalta, Andrés Montalbán, and Alexis Esquivel.

As a certain racist Cuban expression has it, "If the blacks don’t do it on the way in, they’ll do it on the way out." The artists assembled in this project propose to do it on the way out. They speak of race relations in Cuba today, not to jump on the bandwagon of affirmative racism nor to advance themselves through politically correct multiculturalism, but rather to raise questions whose answers might build bridges of understanding between races, cultures, and peoples.

INTRODUCTION: Cuba’s colonial past, like that of other countries of the Americas, left behind a history of complex processes of racial integration reflected to varying degrees in the arts. Colonial art offered the first documentary images of the black presence in Cuba. Nineteenth century costumbrista painting presented either a satirical or an idealized vision of black people from a classist and racist perspective, while at the same time blackness was becoming a distinctive feature of the island’s culture. Twentieth century art, blowing in the winds of the avante-garde, finds an echo in today’s youngest artists, who discover in Afro-Cuban culture an inspiration for their explorations of form and, simultaneously, a medium of nationalist reaffirmation which also attracts the attention of the cultural metropolis. While the socio-political revolution of 1959 implemented concrete measures to eradicate racist practices, it managed along the way to eliminate debate and scholarly research on the subject. The revolution officially declared itself the definitive solution to racial problems, yet at the level of social consciousness, racial prejudices inherited from centuries of slaveowner domination persist and reproduce themselves, sometimes to an alarming degree. Since it was a taboo topic within social debate, race rarely emerged as a theme in visual art in the first two decades after the Revolution. Only in the 1980s, and especially the 1990s, did this crucial subject overflow into the works of young artists who opened it up for questioning.

THE WAY OUT: The proposed exhibit would display, beyond national boundaries, various artistic works that show the concern with racial issues visible in the work of contemporary artists in a country which believes it has eradicated this problem. The five artists who make up the exhibit embody different poetics, and they make use of media ranging from photography to painting to installation to performance to video art. Each will present original works capable of being transported to the exhibit as the personal baggage of the invited artists or the organizers of the show. The number of works per artist depends upon the conditions of the exhibit space and the specific characteristics of the works in question. The exhibit also includes documentation of the artists’ earlier work around similar themes, presented in the form of slides or photographs, as well as biographical and professional information about the artists themselves.

In the US, an effort is underway to include the works of some African American artists who treat these themes.

Proposed Works

René Peña - photographs




From the series "Rituals II"
De la serie Ritos II
(Revolver en la boca)
From the series "Rituals II"
De la serie Ritos II (Cuchillo)
De la serie Man made materials
(Detalle dientes - Details Teeth)

Elio Rodriguez - silk screens



" Havana" " The Temptation...."

Gertrudis Rivalta - oils



" La Querida"  " La Tendedera"

Andrés Montalván



sculpture of metal oxide leaves, with arms akimbo
"La construccion del cuerpo" 
iron sculpture

Alexis Esquivel

Autopsia "Autopsia" -  installation

The amateur ball player of a poor neighborhood jumps, and in mid-air, throws the ball through the hoop. Its parabola draws in the air its own aspirations and the ball hits the backboard on which, surprisingly, appears a photograph of the autopsy of the black leader of the race war of 1912. Finally, the ball enters the basket but doesn’t come out, an old knot gets in the way. This leaves the red and black tear, the drop of blood, the sexual appendage. In the end, the basket of forbidden roads.

PianissimoDetail "Pianisimo Concierto en Clave-s de I-fa" - installation

Casket, showcase, half fishbowl, half birdcage. There are sixteen letters in the diloggún [the divination system of AfroCuban religion (Ifa)]. There are sixteen photocopies of black leaders who fought for the rights of their race and who are, for the most part, forgotten by their fellow Cubans. The wooden claves cluster together, float, or are completely submerged; they flirt with the light and obstruct the view of the portraits beyond them. The water rearranges and reflects. This web unsettles the spectator as much as it does the spirits that try to read the music scores with two large F clefs that are placed on the music stands that obliges them to interpret a strange symphony.


"La soga Maravillosa" 

In the begining there was the rope
in the center of the ballroom
a line of hemp
between the dancers
a temporary solution architectural
It limits the body in space
a welers barrier of instinct
barbed of hate
frontier of fear
in the end,an invicible fortification
of mutual ignorance
.....later the cord became so subtle,so magical,
so invisible like the nudity
of the king.

See also Ni Musicos ni deportistas : sobre los imagines del  negro en el arte cubano, escrito por Ariel Ribeaux.  "Neither Musicians nor Athletes."

Curriculum Vitae are available for: René Peña, Elio Rodríguez, Gertrudis Rivalta, Andrés Montalbán, and Alexis Esquivel.

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