Significant Private Collection of Cuban Art Featured in Westport Arts Center

The Westport Arts Center is presenting Two Steps Forward: Contemporary Cuban Art, an exhibition featuring a diverse and compelling range of works by emerging and established Cuban artists, on display through June 4.

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Two Steps Forward: Contemporary Cuban Art features a significant collection of contemporary Cuban art from the private collection of Greenwich, Connecticut residents Terri and Steven Certilman. The Certilmans, who have sourced pieces directly from the artists during their travels to Cuba over the last decade, are dedicated to promoting the country’s artistic talent.

Steven Certilman offers the following insight into the Cuban art world, “The unique political, social and economic conditions in Cuba have combined to catalyze what may be the world’s highest concentration of artistic talent. Their works are as diverse as the country’s rich cultural heritage. It is said that the eyes are the windows of the soul. Art is the window to the Cuban soul.”

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The painting and sculpture in the show, curated by Certilman and guest curator Arianne Faber Kolb, explore Cuban identity, its diverse cultural heritage, and the political climate and its resulting geographical isolation and emigration. The works are expressions of the soul, beauty, and fortitude of the Cuban people, and how they have met and overcome the circumstances imposed upon their lives.

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The Two Steps Forward title refers to the current political and artistic climate in Cuba and the thaw in relations with the United States. The lifting of travel and trade restrictions between the two countries has allowed artists to have access to more resources and to gain more exposure. However, change is slow and economic strains continue for much of the population. Thus, the title is designed to imply a reference to the adage, “two steps forward, one step back.”

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The artists represented in the exhibition include established figures, such as Abel Barroso, Luis Enrique Camejo, Manuel Mendive, Juan Roberto Diago, Jose Roberto Fabelo, and Kcho. Barroso’s wooden sculptures and intricately constructed mixed media works made of pencil shavings are witty and humorous commentaries on the economic situation. Kcho’s images of precariously stacked rafts refer to the desire and the risks involved in fleeing from one’s circumstances. Fabelo’s monumental and iconic Mermaid’s Dream depicts a sleeping figure (Cuba) detached from reality and surrounded by drifting boats.

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The young artists emerging on the art scene and making their mark include Joniel Leon, Harold Lopez, William Perez, and Mabel Poblet. While Leon and Lopez describe the desires of Cubans through their highly crafted drawings and paintings, Poblet and Perez make statements about the Cuban identity by employing a variety of materials in innovative ways.

FFor more information, contact the Westport Arts Center at (203) 222-7070 or www.westportartscenter.org. The Westport Arts Center gallery is open Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 51 Riverside Avenue, Westport, CT. For more area information www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com

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