Cubans Rule Roost at Pan American's Diaspora-Themed Show

Pan American Art Projects' new exhibit isn't your typical summer group show. At a time when most local galleries are dusting off their stock and having the ubiquitous fire sale to move brand merchandise, this Wynwood space is delivering a museum-quality show featuring top-drawer talent courtesy of Abelardo Mena, curator of international art for Havana's Museo de Bellas Artes.

Mena has organized "Uprooted/Transmigrations" to showcase a handsome collection of Pan American's holdings alongside works created specifically for the exhibit.The deftly curated show deals with themes of forced migration and includes works by artists from the United States, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, and Argentina.

On view are sculptures, paintings, installations, collages of varying sizes, and even interactive pieces. Mena has included some of Cuba's biggest names in the lineup, and their works are among the most compelling on display.

Courtesy Pan American Art Projects
Courtesy Pan American Art Projects
Abel Barroso Dual Citizenship

The artist constructed a wooden outline of the world map and floated the continents on a platform that rises to the height of the spectator's hip. Wooden pegs sprout from varied locales on the map, and viewers are invited to test their hand-eye coordination by purchasing three rings for three bucks and trying their luck at landing two or more of the rings on the pegs. Winners receive one of 40 hand-crafted "passports" Barroso made for the show and strung up with clothespins on a cord behind the game. By including scores of countries in his game of possibilities and playing up the chance factor of where the tossed rings might land, Barroso adroitly underscores the role fortune plays in the plight of immigrants forced to flee their homelands.

Works by Kcho and Ernesto Javier Fernández Zalacain deal with the history of Cubans risking their lives crossing the Florida Straits to find freedom in the United States.


Courtesy Pan American Art Projects
Courtesy Pan American Art Projects
Kcho this Kayak will poke your eyes out


Courtesy Pan American Art Projects
Courtesy Pan American Art Projects
Javier Fernandez Zalacain Dead End


Courtesy Pan American Art Projects
Courtesy Pan American Art Projects
Tania Bruguera Estatistica

These and other arresting works on display are potent reminders that the curator knows that when it comes to the topic of migration, his homeland remains a wellspring of inspiration for talent on both sides of the political divide. It also reflects Mena's keen eye for putting on a solid show untarnished by the party line.

"Uprooted/Transmigrations" Through July 31 at Pan American Art Projects, 2450 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-573-2400; Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday noon to 6 p.m.

Look for the full review in this week's issue.

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