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      Connected | September 6, 2017

      Visiting Yoan Capote in Cuba

      Rebecca Ehrhardt

      Written by

      Rebecca Ehrhardt


      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.”

      sculpture Immanence

      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.

      "PEM’s cultural DNA, which emerges from the intersections of cultures and disciplines, is a perfect home for Immanence,” said Trevor Smith, PEM’s Curator of the Present Tense, who also traveled to Cuba. “The laborious process of trade and exchange that resonates in his work — the hand importation of new hinges for the old — was all rigorously documented. It resonates powerfully with PEM and the ideas that the Present Tense Initiative seeks to explore."

      We are thrilled to acquire Immanence as a complex and stimulating work of art and delighted to acquire a work by a major and upcoming Cuban artist. Yoan Capote: Immanence is on view September 2 to October 22, 2017.

      Keep exploring

      Press Release

      PEM’s Present Tense Initiative Presents Monumental Sculpture by Contemporary Cuban Artist

      PEM’s Present Tense Initiative Presents Monumental Sculpture by Contemporary Cuban Artist

      Past Exhibition

      Yoan Capote: Immanence

      September 28, 2019 to March 12, 2020

      Yoan Capote: Immanence