PMA Pays Tribute to Cuban-American Art with New Exhibition

The Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College is pleased to present an ode to exiled Cuban-American artists through an exhibition curated from works in the museum’s permanent collection. 

Exile: 50 Years of Cuban-American Art from the Permanent Collection” is on view through Jan. 13 and was guest-curated by Olga Nodarse Chao, who left Cuba for the United States in 1961. 

Cuban or Cuban-American collections abound in Miami and New York, but having this collection of works in Central Florida is rare and worthy of emphasis, Chao said. 

It features 14 works from 11 artists who exhibit a broad tapestry of talents, styles and preoccupations. The works represent different stages of the Cuban exile and arrivals in the U.S. 

The exodus from Cuba started in 1959 and continued into the early 1960s. It was not until the Mariel Boatlift of 1980 that the exile for political purposes escalated because the people of Cuba were rapidly losing their individual liberties and human rights.

Three untitled works from Roberto Estopiñán are from two of his best-known periods – “The Prisoners,” exhibited at Harvard University’s Fogg Museum in the early 1960s, and “The Fates,” based on the poem “Le Jeune Parc” by Paul Valery – and represent the Old Guard of the first Cubans who came to the States and who already were successful artists in Cuba. Estopiñán fled to the U.S. in 1961. 

The exhibition also includes works from some of the nine Cuban exile artists who exhibited their work in the 1983 show known as “The Miami Generation.” Mario Bencomo’s “Conquering Wind” is his reaction to Chernobyl.Carlos Macía’s “Astres” construction “is a true rarity and a beauty,” and is Chao’s favorite in the exhibition, she said.

The “Exile” exhibition comes at a time when Cuban and Cuban-American artists comprise one of the truly "hot" fields of contemporary art, Chao said, adding, “That is signaled by the dozens of exhibitions in the last few years in Europe and the United States, as well as the very high auction prices obtained recently by Cuban and Cuban-American artists.”

Chao said she hopes those who see the exhibition will gain an understanding of the “uphill battle the exiled artists, and indeed, all exiles,” have faced.