Pompano Beach Cultural Center Debuts With "Shipwrecked of Reason" Cuban Art Exhibit

José Manuel Fors' Trípode, part of the Cuban art exhibit at the new Pompano Beach Cultural Center.
José Manuel Fors' Trípode, part of the Cuban art exhibit at the new Pompano Beach Cultural Center. José Manuel Fors
Cuba may be an isolated island south of Florida, but its cultural impact is significant. This week, the newly built Pompano Beach Cultural Center will honor that impact with "Shipwrecked of Reason: Half a Century in Cuban Art." The show, on loan from the Cuban government and curated by Isabel María Pérez Pérez, features the work of 20 Cuban contemporary artists working in a diverse range of media from the past 50 years. The exhibit is on display until the end of July.

The title, "Shipwrecked of Reason," refers to Cuba’s geographic context; it's surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. “Being in [Cuba], your mind goes on a trip that it would never go anywhere else as an artist,” says Pérez. The geographic, social, and political conditions of the island contribute to a unique type of creativity that emerges in Cuban artists, she explains.

Byron Swart, curator and artistic director of Pompano Beach Cultural Center, says, “Cuba is isolated in the ocean, but all experiences in Cuba can relate to worldwide experiences. It makes it all the more powerful because they are completely isolated from everyone, yet their art has made massive and drastic influences on the world.”

The themes of the exhibition are memory, identity, body and portrait, territory and landscape, and the construction of history. The artworks contain global thematic representations, but also self-referential and political ones. Perez says, “It’s impossible to do art in Cuba without some kind of political representation. In the past 50 years, Cuban art has been represented as a criticism to politics and has become a contestatory art, a protest against politics.”

Nadal Antelmo, one of the artists showing his work at the exhibition, says he tries to represent his life in his work with photographs, drawings, and sculptures. In his photograph titled Surco (which translates to "furrow" in English), seven bodies line up in a narrow, grave-like hole in the earth, their arms folded across their chests and their faces invisible.

Another work in the show, Jose Manuel Fors’ Tripode, is a tripod made of aged light wood that resembles the legs of an insect. From a distance, the work appears reductive and formal. But look closer into the aperture, and the viewer is confronted with a black and white photograph of a smiling young girl.

click to enlarge
Lidzie Alvisa
Lidzie Alvisa’s Silencio is a mixed-media piece that combines photography, cardboard, and pins. A close-up image of a person’s face holding two pins horizontally in their lips is framed with a pattern of pins on a black background. In some places, the pins are interwoven and overlapping; in others, they remain vertical and individuated.

"Shipwrecked of Reason" contains a diverse configuration of media, themes, and content, but the differences all converge on the location: Cuba. Swart concludes, “Contemporary Cuban artists have made a drastic impact on the art world. They can stand up against contemporary artists of New York, Paris, or London.”

"Shipwrecked of Reason: Half a Century in Cuban Art"
5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 11, through July 31 at the Pompano Beach Cultural Center and Library, 50 W. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach; Admission is free. The opening follows a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new center.
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth

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