Diago: The Pasts of this Afro-Cuban Present

In “Exhibit showing Cuban artist to start 5-month stay in Colorado Springs,” Amanda Hancock (The Gazette) reports on “Diago: The Pasts of this Afro-Cuban Present,” the first retrospective exhibit showing the work of prominent Cuban artist Juan Roberto Diago, opened on February 18 at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center at Colorado College. The exhibition, which will remain on view until July 2, was curated by Harvard University historian Alejandro de la Fuente. [A roundtable discussion with the artist and the curator will take place on April 15 at the Fine Arts Center.]

The exhibit could’ve gone anywhere after its debut at Harvard University and its second stop in Miami. The next stop? Colorado Springs.

“Diago: The Pasts of this Afro-Cuban Present,” the first retrospective exhibit showing the work of prominent Cuban artist Juan Roberto Diago, opens Friday at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center at Colorado College. And it’s staying for awhile. Diago’s 22 pieces will be available for view through July 2.

It arrives here thanks to an email exchange, as the story goes from the exhibit’s curator, Alejandro de la Fuente.

Andrea Herrera, a professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, knew of de la Fuente and his work as the director of the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University. When she heard about the Diago exhibit, Herrera emailed someone at the Fine Arts Center about it. “That’s how these things happen,” de la Fuente said. “Someone sends an email saying, ‘Take a look at this exhibition.’”

And now it’s here.

“I’m delighted that it’s going to a different area of the country,” he said. “It’s an area of the country where Cuban art is not as frequently seen as it should be.”

The professor, scholar and author originally from Havana was introduced to Diago in 2007 and then included the artist in a 2010 exhibit called “Queloides: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art.”

“After learning more about Diago’s work, I began to work with him over the years and follow his career,” he said. “The closer I got to his work, the more amazed I became.”

Although unusual to do a retrospective exhibit for a living artist in the middle of his career, de la Fuente said he became “convinced it was possible.” The result is an exhibit featuring pieces by Diago from the 1990s to 2019, including mixed media and installation art, that “traces his singular efforts to construct new pasts to explain the racial tensions of contemporary Cuba,” according to a press release.

Described as a leading member of the new Afro-Cuban cultural movement, Diago lives and works in Havana, where he studied at the San Alejandro Academy. He was born in 1971.

“Diago’s Cuba is a nation built on pain, rape, greed and the enslavement of millions of displaced Africans, a nation still grappling with the long-term effects of slavery and colonialism,” the press release stated. “To him, slavery is not the past, but a daily experience of racism and discrimination.”

De la Fuente was drawn to such artwork because he teaches and studies similar issues. “I always say he is a fellow historian,” de la Fuente said. “It takes me 300 pages to explain what he can explain on a canvas.”

There’s a chance to hear both men explain their ideas during a roundtable discussion April 15 at the Fine Arts Center.

For full article, see https://gazette.com/arts-entertainment/exhibit-showing-cuban-artist-to-start-5-month-stay-in-colorado-springs/article_acc37f34-82b1-11ec-a1dc-c7a7d62a283f.html

[Image above: Juan Roberto Diago, Mi Historia es Tu Historia (My History is Your History), 2000, mixed media on canvas, 89” x 68.” Courtesy of Cernuda Arte. Accessed through ArtPulse Magazine.]

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