Apr 10, 2014
08:40 AM
Arts & Entertainment

Cuban Art Show in New Canaan Explores Identity; Greenwich Collector Curates

Cuban Art Show in New Canaan Explores Identity; Greenwich Collector Curates

"Malecón Rain" a photo by Lissette Solórzano that is featured as part of "Absolut Kuba!"

The eyes on the painting are watching you. Not in the beguiling curious way that the Mona Lisa’s gaze seems to follow you across the room; no these eyes are prying, unwanted, sentry-like.

"It’s a bit of a political statement about people watching you, people keeping an eye on you,” says Steven Certilman of the painting (right), which is called “The Onlooker” and is by Cuban artist Jacqueline Brito Jorge .

“Absolut Kuba!” is a new show dedicated to the works of contemporary Cuban artists that will open at the Carriage Barn Arts Center in New Canaan on April 24 and will be on view through June 1. The opening reception for the exhibition, which is open to the public, will be held on Saturday, April 26 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. One of the artists with work featured in the show, Héctor Frank, will be on hand for the opening.

The show features pieces that Certilman (an attorney and art collector from Greenwich) and his wife Terri have acquired over the years directly from Cuban artists.

The works featured in the show, which is curated by Certilman and Carriage Barn Arts Center Co-director Arianne Faber Kolb, explore Cuban identity and its diverse cultural heritage.

Certilman says that the understated but powerful political message of the kind found in Jorge’s painting is common in Cuban art (another painting of Jorge's called "Noah's Arc" is pictured below).

“There are certainly exceptions, but if there’s one common theme that you see it is subtle political comment,” he says. “That can be commentary related to the conditions that the artists live with as a result of the difficult economy that they face, and it can be commentary about immigration from Cuba and people leaving. That’s a very common theme as well, because virtually everybody has had friends or family members who’ve left the country.

"I know a photographer who’s done a very poignant series of photographs that started in the late ‘50s when he was a child, where on the terrace of his apartment building he took a photograph of his extended family of about 15 to 20 people, and then took a photograph on that terrace every year for about 20 years. The number of people gets smaller and smaller until the last piece in the series is his mother on the tarmac of the airport looking up at him in the terminal and waving as she gets on the plane. It’s very moving and it reflects the very difficult reality that many Cubans face.”

In honor of the “Absolut Kuba!” exhibition, the theme of Carriage Barn Arts Center’s inaugural benefit is “A Night in Havana.” The gala will take place on Saturday, May 17 and features Cuban food, cocktails, a silent auction and music by Manchado, an Afro-Latin Jazz band.

(Above "Rain or Shine," a photo by Lissette Solórzano featured in the show). 

Certilman and his wife have been interested in Cuban art for more than 30 years. In that time they have made regular trips to Cuba to find new art and new artists (because they are looking for art, the trip is considered a “cultural exchange” and is not bound by the terms of the U.S. embargo of Cuba). The couple has an online art gallery, Discoveries in Art, LLC, which is dedicated to promoting Cuban artistic talent. Certilman says the show at the Carriage Barn will provide people with a glimpse into the diversity of that artistic talent.

“The Carriage Barn is a beautiful 100-plus-year-old barn with 25-foot ceilings and very old beams exposed. It’s a wonderful setting for this kind of work because the art is in styles of old and new, (and ranges from) modern and abstract to very descriptive narrative types of work.”

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and on Google +

 

Cuban Art Show in New Canaan Explores Identity; Greenwich Collector Curates

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