Connected \\ September 6, 2017
Visiting Yoan Capote in Cuba
Back in April PEM traveled to Cuba with a group of friends and supporters. We knew from our earlier work with Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons and Neil Leonard, whose exhibition Alchemy of the Soul opened at PEM in 2016, how important it was to gain a multi-layered understanding of Cuba: its history, its culture, its economic development and its artists. Our group visited several art studios as well as Fábrica de Arte Cubano, an extraordinary venue containing galleries of visual art, video screenings, bars and restaurants housed in an old cooking oil factory.
One of the most moving moments was our visit with artist Yoan Capote. As Dan L. Monroe, PEM’s Rose-Marie and Eijk Van Otterloo Director and CEO tells it, “Yoan Capote is an extraordinarily thoughtful and incisive thinker who expresses his ideas through compelling and often complex works that provide opportunities for multiple interpretations and queries. The explanation of his work, delivered in his Havana studio, experienced by PEM’s Cuba travelers was among the most compelling I have ever heard and his work is equally powerful.”
Our entire group was struck by his sculpture Immanence, which takes the form of a monumental sculpture of Fidel Castro. Castro was the revolutionary and dictator who dominated Cuban life and culture until his death in 2016. Castro turned Cuba into a communist state in 1959 by overthrowing the corrupt dictator, Juan Batista, who was supported by the U.S. government and the mafia. The United States imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1961, which was only recently partially lifted and even more recently partially reinstated.
As you look closer at Immanence however, what seems to be a portrait of the Cuban leader becomes a portrait of Cuba’s citizens. Castro’s metallic form has been welded together from hundreds of individual rusted door hinges, each of which has been acquired by a process of exchange with individuals throughout the country as the artist gave people new hinges to replace the old. The rusted door hinges speak of the impact of the embargo on the magnificent but crumbling Cuban architectural heritage and suggest that Cuba has long been a closely controlled society.
Recently, the group of travelers banded together to help bring the work to PEM and create a lasting legacy of the trip and enrich the experiences of our visitors.