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Gestures of Faith in Contemporary Cuban Art

April 1–July 10, 2016

This selection of art features the work of some of today’s leading Cuban and Cuban-American artists and reflects the diversity and melding of spiritual practices that have shaped contemporary Cuban culture. The presentation was organized and inspired by the private collection of the Rubin Museum’s founders, Shelley and Donald Rubin, which at present includes, most prominently, modern Indian and contemporary Cuban art.

Responding to locally practiced religions and spiritual traditions like Catholicism, Santeria, and Spiritism, as well as the after-effects of Marxist ideology, Cuban artists have long searched for alternate spiritual paths. The country is not officially aligned with any one religion, and the contemporary artists of the island continually question and present new forms of deities and spirits to help visualize more open religious and political possibilities.

Images of hands recur as a theme throughout the gallery, from Ernesto Pujol’s Relic to Armando Mariño’s Shaman 2 and the dancing figures in Manuel Mendive’s paintings. The hand suggests worship, humility, and the act of offering—in other words, a signifier of spiritual belief in action. Sandra Ramos’s circular collages link the heart and mind, a nod to Buddhist meditation practices. Pujol’s collages, photographs, and sculptures convey the subjugation of both practitioners and clergy in Catholicism. Carlos Estévez’s Flujos cosmotelúricos (Cosmo-Telluric Flows) reads as both a mudra (a ritual gesture) and a map of energy currents above and below the earth’s surface, real and imagined. Artworks by Adonis Flores, Lázaro Saavedra, and Glexis Novoa echo symbolism found in the Rubin Museum’s collection of Himalayan art. Gestures of Faith, the first presentation of contemporary Cuban art at the Rubin Museum, reveals the spiritual dialogue between the arts of the island and the Himalayas, two very distant cultural traditions with complex histories.

We invite you to make connections between the artworks on view here and those in the other galleries throughout the Museum.

Guest curator: Sara Reisman

Gestures of Faith was created to honor Museum co-founder Donald Rubin.

Image credit: Manuel Mendive (b. 1944, Havana; lives and works in Havana); detail of Compartir (Share), 2009; acrylic on canvas; 33 x 39 in.; courtesy of the Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection