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Lucas Iberico Lozada reviews “The Illusive Eye” is on view at El Museo del Barrio, New York, since February 3 and will continue through May 21, 2016. [Image above is by Cuban artist Lolo Soldevilla (Dolores Soldevilla, 1901-1971)]. Here are excerpts of the review:

An exhibition set to open at El Museo del Barrio in New York on February 3rd, “The Illusive Eye” takes as its point of departure a landmark 1965 show at the Museum of Modern Art, “The Responsive Eye,” which claimed to catalogue a “widespread and powerful new direction in contemporary art”—that of kinetic and op (or optic) art. But there was something absent from that iconic survey: the numerous contributions to geometric abstraction by Latin-American artists who went virtually overlooked by MoMA.

In recent years, other museums and galleries have revisited the history of geometric abstraction and, more specifically, op art. But according to Jorge Daniel Veneciano, the executive director of El Museo and the show’s curator, these shows have largely followed MoMa’s lead by focusing only on the formal elements of abstraction, rather than their intellectual origin. “There are all these other sources that inform geometric abstraction that are not accounted for in French Impressionism,” Veneciano says. “El Museo, as a museum free to take another point of view, can challenge that received history.”

But while this shift in curatorial philosophy may not be immediately apparent within the works on view in “The Illusive Eye,” Veneciano’s expansive vision ultimately results in the long-overdue celebration of over 35 pioneering Latin-American artists working within the realm of op art. They appear alongside a few choice works from their European and American contemporaries and peers like Frank StellaJosef Albers, and Victor Vasarely.

The exhibition, which has been in works for roughly a year, is divided into four sections across three galleries. The first of these, “the optical sublime,” contains works that prevent the viewer’s eye from settling on a single focal point. Argentine artist Eduardo Mac Entyre’s 1966 Seis Formas en Dos Circunferencias (Six Forms in Two Circumferences) is a gorgeous painting whose looping forms braid atop one another to create an array of circular shapes within a unified whole.

[. . .] Another section of the show, “Mandalas and dervishes,” demands less from the viewer but is no less transfixing; the pieces included whirr and spin, recalling the ascetic ecstasy of spinning Sufi mystics. In “Kinetic cascades,” works like Norberto Gómez’s 1964 sculpture Untitled (1967), in which hollow rectangular blocks twist downward in a helix-like motion, mimic motion from a single perspective.

One of the show’s highlights is a video presentation by Argentine-Italian artist Ana Sacerdote, in which she breathes new life into a series of her own abstract geometric paintings from the late ’50s and early ’60s by having them melt together and drift apart over the course of an animated video sequence entitled Pattern, Color and Volume (1958-1962).

In the end, one comes to appreciate the optical delight provided by so many of the works on display, along with the realization that within every epochal museum show, some pockets of that history will be marginalized. “The Illusive Eye” takes the theme of seeing what is not there and applies it both practically and theoretically, giving the artists included their due place alongside European-American counterparts. [. . .]

For full review, see https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-a-show-of-latin-american-op-artists-rebukes-moma-s-eurocentrism

Cimarron Spirit

Cimarrón Spirit (United States, 2015) is a documentary film directed by Rubén Durán and Michael Brims. The film explores African-based cultural elements, religious celebrations, and customs that survive in the Dominican Republic. Andrew S. Vargas (Remezcla) reviews the film:

From Palenque in Colombia to Yanga in Veracruz, Latin American history is filled with glorious stories of runaway slave societies where Africans stolen from their homes coalesced far from centers of colonial power to live out their traditions in freedom. Oftentimes these cimarrones mixed with local indigenous groups, who shared knowledge of the flora and fauna that was essential for survival, leading to syncretic cultures and languages forged on the margins of Spanish authority.

In the Dominican Republic, three towns in particular are known for their origins as cimarrón societies: Elías Piña, near the Haitian border; Cocoricamo and Las Tifuas in San Juan de la Maguana; and las Cachuas de Cabral in Barahona. Over the centuries, these three regions developed distinct cultural practices deeply rooted in their African origins that have earned the fascination of scholars and artists alike.

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A new ethnographic documentary entitled Cimarrón Spirit brings together individuals from both sides of this spectrum: professors, designers, and filmmakers; Dominican and American, to document the idiosyncratic customs of these three centers of cimarrón culture in the Dominican Republic. Led by Dominican-born, Houston-based filmmaker Rubén Durán, the collaborative project doesn’t seem to boast many artistic pretensions, acting instead instead as an almost anthropological exercise that seeks to document and share the story of Dominican cimarrones and their descendants.

A short trailer for Cimarrón Spirit showcases the filmmakers’ eye for the colors, rhythms, and frenetic dances that characterize communal celebrations in these towns and villages. Blocks of text provide context about the history of cimarronaje, while talking-head interviews reinforce the point. Overall, Cimarrón Spirit promises to be a rather straightforward look into some of the Dominican Republic’s deepest cultural practices, filled to the brim with impressive costumes and exuberant celebration.

See trailer and full review at http://remezcla.com/film/trailer-cimarron-spirit-afro-latino-documentary-dominican-republic-runaway-slaves

For more information on the project, see http://www.loscimarrones.com

 

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The Institute of Caribbean Studies at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras presents “Crisis, ¿qué crisis?: La deuda y la vida cotidiana” [Crisis, what crisis? Debt and everyday life”], a discussion on the economic crisis in Puerto Rico with Dr. Juan Lara (UPR-RP, Dept. of Economics) and Dr. Emilio Pantojas (UPR-RP, Centro de Investigaciones Sociales).

This event takes place on Thursday, February 18, 2016, from 1:00-3:00pm at the Manuel Maldonado Denis Amphitheatre (CRA 108) of the Carmen Rivera de Alvarado Building, School of Social Sciences, UPR-RP.

Description:  A discussion of the economic crisis of public debt, seen in terms of the daily life of the Puerto Rican middle and lower middle class. How do we change consumption patterns? access to credit? ¿interests and mortgages? ¿jobs? the quality of life in general? Will Puerto Rico’s relationship with the rest of the Caribbean change? The themes of e / in / migration, legal and illegal, tourism, trade and cultural exchanges emerge as starting points for the discussion.

Live transmission via: http://ustream.tv/channel/cc71

Most of the previous Caribbean Conferences are available online at InternetArchive.org

For comments and suggestions, feel free to write to ICS director Dr. Lowell Fiet at: iec.ics@upr.edu

See the Institute of Caribbean Studies on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#%21/pages/Instituto-de-Estudios-del-Caribe- UPR/146169468754542?ref=sgm\

For image above (photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) and related article, see http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/puerto-rico-debt-crisis-drives-exodus-u-s/

UntitledJamaica’s Ministry of Youth and Culture is moving to have reggae inscribed on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Principal Director of the Culture and Creative Industries Policy Division in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Dr. Janice Lindsay [shown above], says the ministry has set up a committee to prepare the documents expected to be submitted in March 2017.

[. . .] Dr. Lindsay said the global appeal of reggae was why it should be inscribed on UNESCO’s list. “We need to protect that distinctive history of reggae as an intangible heritage and we need to do this before someone else presents the elements in some other form as theirs,” she stressed, adding that the move would have far more bearing on future generations. “[The young ones], 50 years from now, would not have forgiven us if they lived to read in bits and pieces that there was a music emanating from our country and that it was lost over time, because there was no proof of the origin and distinctiveness being uniquely Jamaican.”

Dr. Lindsay argued that important stories of Jamaica’s music must be safeguarded “since it is the only sure way of protecting the integrity of the music.”

For full article, see http://www.caribbean360.com/news/jamaica-begins-process-to-get-reggae-inscribed-on-unesco-cultural-heritage-list

Posted by: ivetteromero | February 11, 2016

Barbados makes big marketing push for Crop Over in Trinidad

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According to Caribbean 360, quoting Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, Barbados should expect “good numbers” out of the twin island republic for Crop Over 2016, thanks to increased marketing efforts during Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival celebrations.

“The National Cultural Foundation teamed up with the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. to launch the ‘Crop Over We Go’ promotion, which targets television, radio and entertainment events during and after Carnival,” [Minister of Culture Stephen] Lashley said [adding that] Trinidad offered a great target market for Crop Over because of the large numbers of persons attracted to its carnival.

[. . .] Describing the reception of the Crop Over marketing efforts as “great”, the Culture Minister disclosed that several television and radio interviews were booked, and specific Crop Over marketing drives were undertaken at all-inclusive fetes during Carnival.

Lashley also revealed that his team held talks with Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Dr. Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, and her delegation which included officials from that country’s Ministry of Tourism. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.caribbean360.com/news/barbados-makes-big-marketing-push-for-crop-over-at-trinidad-carnival

Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 10, 2016

INTERVIEW: Stair Sainty on Artist Federico Beltrán Masses

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An article by Tara Loader Wilkinson for Billionaire. Follow the link to a great gallery of images.

Federico Beltrán Masses was a Cuban-born Spanish artist, renowned as a master of colour and the psychological portrait, as well as a painter of seductive images of strong, often scandalous, women.

Between 10 February and 24 March, Stair Sainty, a gallery in London’s Mayfair, is exhibiting rarely seen work of ‘superstar’ Spanish artist Federico Beltrán Masses (1885–1949).

A figurative painter who rose to prominence in the Jazz Age, Cuban-born Beltrán Masses has been compared with the Venetian masters Tiepolo, Titian and Tintoretto, and the Spanish painters El Greco and Goya; yet at the same time he is seen as a modernist. The exhibition entitled ‘Federico Beltran Masses: Under the Stars’seeks to explore this paradox.

We hear from renowned gallerist, dealer and owner of the eponymous gallery, Guy Stair Sainty.

You held a Beltrán Masses exhibition in 2012. Why did you choose to hold this second exhibition?
Guy Stair Sainty:
We had always planned to do a second show. When the family told us they would consider selling the three major works they had declined to sell last time (Maja Maldita, Las Ibericasand Limones) and they also agreed to sell Las hermanas de Venecia and also Tres Para Uno, which had not been available, it was a good opportunity. And the buyer of Salome moved from California to Florida with his new wife and was not able to hang it.

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What do you think his appeal is today?
Beltrán Masses portrays a time we know about from films and contemporary accounts that we do not know in artistic terms. The First World War was a time when everything and everyone was threatened, with terrible losses among the military, appalling destruction and revolutions in Russia and Germany that overthrew the existing order. Those affected sought to escape into a world of dreams and fantasy, hence the settings in moonlight, in Venice, and sexual freedom, which now included an openness about female same-sex relationships.

Why did Beltrán Masses exclusively paint strong, beautiful, often scandalous, women?
He also painted more conventional society portraits of women and some men, but scandalous and independently wealthy women sought him out because he would paint them as they wanted to be seen, without much regard to convention.

Was he ahead of his time in the message he was trying to portray, or just fashionable?
I do not know any other painters, aside from the slightly younger Tamara de Lempicka who addresses such subjects so directly. Beltrán Masses arrived in Paris when Picasso’s Cubism was already developing in another direction and while there were still avant-garde experiments with the abstract — Malevich, Kandinsky and so on. In the early 1920s Picasso returns to a new type of figurative art; Leger adapts figurative elements; Matisse moves to Nice and changes to painting figurative painting that is, in a different way to Beltrán Masses, purely figurative but first of all about colour. Like Beltrán Masses, Matisse becomes less interested in drawing and his world is that of the hot sun of the south of France while the world of Beltrán Masses is nocturnal, they are both looking at a world where women are central. Kees Van Dongen, another colourist, is also painting women and, again, colour, not drawing, is central to his work; stylistically he and Beltrán Masses occasionally share some commonalities but they cannot be directly compared. There are also politically radical German and Austrian artists — Kokoschka, Christian Schad, George Grosz and so on — who work in a figurative mode; Kokoschka’s palette contrasts strongly with Beltrán Masses, but they both share a new approach to figurative art.

Which of the paintings in the show are your favourites?
Granada and Maja Maldita, but I also really like Under the Stars.

 

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The Western Illinois University Department of English will host the Fred Ewing Case and Lola Austin Case Writer in Residence at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 24 in the Sherman Hall third floor auditorium. The event is open free to the public.

Nationally-recognized author Edwidge Danticat will read from her newest book during the WIU event. She has written numerous books, including “Claire of the Sea Light,” a New York Times notable book; “Brother, I’m Dying,” a National Book Critics Circle Award winner and a National Book Award finalist; “Breath, Eyes, Memory,” an Oprah Book Club selection; “Krik? Krak!,” a National Book Award finalist;
The Farming of Bones,” an American Book Award winner; and “The Dew Breaker,” a PEN-Faulkner Award finalist and winner of the inaugural Story Prize.

The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, Danticat has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times and elsewhere. She currently lives in Miami, FL.

The Fred Ewing Case and Lola Austin Case Writer-in-Residence supports bringing national writers of poetry and fiction to Western each year.

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The stamps are part of the U.N’s “Free and Equal” campaign, Dan Avery reports for New Now Next.

Pride is months away but the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) has released a series of new stamps promoting global LGBT equality.

The six commemorative stamps, which mark the first time UNPA has honored the LGBT community, are part of the UN Free & Equal campaign, and have the phrase “Free and Equal” written on them in English, French and German.

Said UNPA in a statement:

Equality is a fundamental principle of human rights. All human beings – whoever they are, wherever they live, whomever they love – are entitled to enjoy the same basic rights, free from arbitrary interference.

All States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, have a legal duty to promote and protect the human rights of all.

LGBT people, like everyone else in the world, are entitled to live their lives free from fear, violence, discrimination and persecution.

Cuban artist Sergio Baradat, who designed the stamps, says he was inspired by the Art Deco style he grew up with in Miami.

“We live in a world where even though (developed) nations have embraced marriage equality (and) LBGT equality, we still have a far, far, far way to go,” said.”

“There are some countries in the world right now where not only are we not celebrated or respected, but we are beaten and killed,” added Baradat. “And I thought that it would be a wonderful opportunity using art, to use postage stamps as a vehicle – using art to change hearts and minds.”

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The stamps are $5.83 for the set of six, and on sale at the UN Headquarters in New York, Geneva and Vienna, and online.

Posted by: lisaparavisini | February 10, 2016

5 Reasons You Should Be Reading Edwidge Danticat’s ‘Untwine’

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From Hello Beautiful . . . 

Edwidge Danticat has been wowing readers since she broke onto the scene with her first book, Breath, Eyes, Memory in 1994. Now this famous Haitian author’s newest, 16th novel,Untwine, a tragic and captivating book about sisterhood, love and loss, is flying off bookshelves and revealing Danticat at her best.

Danticat is celebrated for her dedication to spreading awareness of Haiti’s history as the first free nation for Black people, her strong, distinct literary voice and her creative background blending non-fiction and film.

She has been hailed as the “quintessential American writer” by the legendary Junot Diaz. Robert Antoni has praised Danticat for “doing for Haiti’s history of violence and vengeance what Toni Morrison did for the US in tackling the horrors of slavery and its aftermath.”

With praise like that, it’s no surprise that Untwine is up for this year’s NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth. Danticat became a MacArthur Fellow in 2009, snagged honorary degrees from Smith and Yale, and she received a nomination for the National Book Award back in 1995 (Philip Roth snubbed her that year).

But when you strip away all the prestigious awards and solely look at her work itself, it’s undeniable that there is no one that can write with the magic and sobering realism that Danticat can bring to a page. We at #TeamBeautiful got to read this genius’ latest work and we’ve got all the reasons why you need to read this book asap:

1. Danticat Takes A Chance

This famous writer is known for her adult books but she takes a different route by tackling the difficult, complex subjects of love and death to then reflect them for a new audience of adolescents. The book may be intended for your teenage kids, cousins and siblings, but it’s written so powerfully that you’re sure to love it, too.

2. It Was Made For Women With Twin Siblings

Or at least women with siblings that they’re really close to and would virtually die without having them at their side. The main character in the book grapples with her memories of her lost twin sister as she suffers in her dilemma of whether to keep on living or to subdue herself to a vegetative state. The process is grueling to watch.

3. It’s Got Something For Everybody

Realism. The supernatural. Romance. Humor. Tragedy. Inspiration. Whatever genre of books you love the most, Danticat gives something for any and every reader to indulge in.

4. You’ll Fall In Love With The Characters

The girl at the center of the book, Giselle, grabs you as a narrator. Her spirit is beautiful and genuine, and it serves as an outlet for Danticat’s fluid and lyrical prose. Reading Giselle’s memories of her family are visceral, bittersweet and heartwarming.

5. It Will Touch You As A Parent

No parent wants to think of their young children surviving them (or any of their young siblings or cousins). But Danticat’s depiction of Giselle being faced with a life without her family—and her response to the event—shows the inimitable bond that a girl has with her mother, father, and sister or brother. In the end, the connection the teenager holds with her blood relatives depicts the power of legacy and familial love.

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A review by Matthew Ismael Ruiz for FlavorWire.com.

The triangular trade that linked Europe, West Africa, and the Americas didn’t stop with the abolition of slavery in the 19th century. The percussive rhythms brought over in slave ships to ports in the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico made their way back to the shores of Africa. As Cuban music enjoyed its heyday in the 1940s, touring Cuban bands toured West Africa, finding their way to sweaty nightclubs in Dakar, Senegal’s capital. Later, in the 1970s, stars like James Brown and Celia Cruz toured the coast, breathing new life into a culture born of English and French colonialism.

Senegal 70, a compilation jointly released by Analog Africa and Teranga Beat, captures the swirling sound clashes of this colonial hub from more than four decades ago. Early progenitors Amara Touré and Le Star Band de Dakarabsorbed Cuban genres like Son Montuno and Patchanga, lacing it with electric guitars and African sounds like Mbalax and Mandinka. On Senegal 70, they’re featured with the laid-back “El Carretero,” with a distinctively Cuban call-and-response chorus—and Wolof lyrics. By the 70s, though, they had started to give way to nascent acts like Orchestre Bawobab, whose “Ma Penda” aches with its singer’s pained, emotive wail.

The compilation is peppered with organs, horns, guitars, and all manner of drums. Its sound is equatorial, distinctly tropical. There are faded reggae rhythms and more psychedelic vibes, with a post-colonial legacy reflected in Afro-Caribbean sounds and lyrics in English (“Kokoriko”), Spanish (“Thiely,” “Viva Marvillas”), and Wolof (“El Carretero”).

The 12-track release is a joint effort between two relatively new but nonetheless important reissue labels: the Frankfurt, Germany-based Analog Africa and the Dakar-based Teranga Beat. Analog Africa was founded in 2005, and releasing “raw, funky and psychedelic tropical sounds from Africa and Latin America from the ’60s and ’70s,” according to its site. In June of 2015, they released a compilation of Amara Touré’s work from 1973-1980. Teranga Beat is the brainchild of Greek music aficionado Adamantios Kafetzis, a frequent tourist to Senegal who founded an event in Athens of the same name that celebrates African food, music, and culture. He’s spent the better part of the last decade tracking down old Senegalese tunes, and says on his site that he “happened upon a wealth of un-edited reel tapes containing material from the ’60s up until the mid ’80s.” He set up shop in Dakar, and began releasing the 300+ tracks he found. He’s already released work from Senegal 70 act Dieul Dieul de Thiés.

You can thank the state of vinyl manufacturing for the fact that the 2xLP version of Senegal 70 is still on pre-order, but you can stream it on Spotify, and purchase the CD and digital download versions on Bandcamp. The vinyl version has a different tracklist; Instead of “Ariyo” by Dieul Dieul de Thiés, you get “Ndiourel” by Gestü de Dakar. The vinyl comes with a 12-page booklet; the CD, a smaller, 44-page version. It’s a perfect soundtrack to the doldrums of winter, a transportive experience that bounces effortlessly between Havana and Dakar. We feel warmer already.

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