Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cubans at Octavia, Identity at Heriard-Cimino

It is tempting to say that Cuba is a state of mind. Although much divides that nation's citizens from the expatriate community in this country, there is a certain sensibility that pervades Cuban art regardless of where it was made--a surreal quality that harks to the Caribbean cultural milieu melded with a Cuban dash drama, as we see in this Inside/Outside expo. Havana painter Reuben Rodriguez Martinez, top, is the biggest surprise. Although his abstract and earth toned nudes hark in some ways to Miro and Picasso, they also reflect a Caribbean sensibility that melds surrealism and the spirit realm into a distinctly Cuban visual milieu. Spirits of a more concrete sort are suggested in Victoria Montoro Zamorano's photographs of moldering old buildings in Havana, where the antique baroque architecture leavened with centuries of decay yields some decidedly ghostly vistas. Throw in some amazingly colorful people and a sense of time traveling street theater is pervasive. The varied, if  decorous, works of Ruben Alpizar, Jose Choy and Luisa Mesa round out this exotic grab bag of a show.

The Identity expo at Heriard-Cimino features a multinational mixed menu of work including the large photographs of Carlos Betancourt, above, a Miami artist of Cuban ancestry. Here psychedelic images of exotic men and women in the throes of bizarre shamanic rites--a conceptual cocktail of psychotropic flights of fancy--cast a spell that is spooky yet intriguing, and a colorful contrast to the solitary example of Cuban expatriate painter Jose Bedia's more austere Santeria inspired work. But the paintings of Mexican artist Carlos Villasante explore the inner recesses of the “identity” theme even as Nola painter  Sharon Jacques' canvases take us across the globe to the strangest encounter of all: Islamic traditions and pop culture, below. All of these works suggest  how some things remain the same even in an age of perpetual change. ~Bookhardt

Inside/Outside: Contemporary Cuban Art by Luisa Mesa, Victoria Montoro Zamorano, Jose Antonio Choy and Ruben Rodriguez Martinez, Through June 30, Octavia Art Gallery, 4532 Magazine St., 309-4249; ; Identity: Works by Carlos Betancourt, Sharon Jacques and Carlos Villasante, Through June 30, Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300