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Santa Monica Showcases Works from Cuba's Leading Artists

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By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

October 19, 2015 -- With improved U.S.-Cuban relations as a backdrop, “Made In Cuba!/Hecho En Cuba!” brings the works of many of the communist island's leading artists to the Santa Monica Arts Studio, from now through November.

Featuring the work of Kadir Lopez, Manuel Mendive, Roberto Diago, Mabel Poblet and many others, “Made In Cuba!/Hecho En Cuba! Recycling Memory and Culture” opened with a reception for the artists this past weekend.  The display continues through Saturday, November 21, at the studios, 3026 Airport Ave.

The generation of artists featured in the exhibit represent “the most educated, most worldly, and probably most recognized ever,” said curator Sandra Levinson, director of the Center for Cuban Studies' Cuban Art Space in New York.

“In Cuba, they are superstars,” said Levinson, who successfully sued the U.S. government for the right to import Cuban art despite the embargo.

López's work is owned by the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, the Richard Guggenheim Collection, Art Nexus Collection, Bogota Columbia and Arizona State University Art Museum, among others.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith recently visited López’s Havana studio and bought “Coca Cola-Galiano,” an 8- by 4-foot Coke sign on which López superimposed a 1950s photo of a bustling Havana street.

The work is typical of López’s approach, which often repurposes porcelain-lacquered advertising signs, overlaid with black and white photos of historical and current events, “creating a rich meditation on time,” Levinson said.

Mendive, whose work appears in museums and private collections around the globe, is one of the most important living Cuban artists.

A practitioner of the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion, Mendive’s art incorporates humans, animals and spirit-like figures in painting, sculpture, body painting, installations, performance art and video. Art historian Edward Sullivan has called his work  “daring, rebellious, unconventional and brave.”

Poblet, 29, is one of the most exciting emerging Cuban artists, said Levinson. A graduate of the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Poblet has become a major figure in the contemporary Cuban art scene.

Her work, which is self-referential, ranges from photography, video and installations to a reinterpretation of pop and kinetic art. She has exhibited in Japan, France, Portugal, Spain, Columbia and Peru, as well as the U.S.

The “audacious” collection, Levinson said, features a post-revolution Cuban experience summed up by Diago,  whose work composed of 'found' materials has been exhibited in Paris, Miami and Texas.     

“During the economic crisis, we didn’t have the materials you need to paint like we were taught in school, so we adapted our art to what we could find,” Diago said in a statement.

He and other Cuban artists discovered the economic crisis of the 1990s changed the art “for the better, by broadening their artistic vision,” [by adopting the century-old practice of using found objects developed by the Dadaists and such major artists as Picasso and Marcel Duchamp.]

“They began using not only new 'found' materials, but also new concepts,” she said.

Also featured in the exhibit are works from Abel Barroso, Osvaldo Castilla, Sandra Ceballos,  Choco (Eduardo Roca), Juan Carlos Echevarria, Aimée García, Ernesto Javier Fernández, Alberto Lescay,  Joel Jover, William Perez, Ernesto Rancańo,  Adrian Rumbaut, and younger emerging artists such as Dagoberto Driggs Dumois, Guillermo Estrada-Viera, Hector Frank, Marlys Fuego and Carlos César Román.

Santa Monica Art Studios is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

For more information call 310-2307422, or visit

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