'¡Cuba, Cuba!' Challenges Preconceived Notions - 27 East

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‘¡Cuba, Cuba!’ Challenges Preconceived Notions

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CUBA. Havana. 1964. Che GUEVARA.

CUBA. Havana. 1964. Fidel CASTRO.

author on Aug 11, 2015

With the reestablishment of a political relationship with Cuba, the possibility of lifting the five-decade-long trade embargo would mean more than Cuban cigars filling the shelves of American humidors.

Cuba is no longer a nostalgic, circa-1950s honeymoon destination. It is a country ripe with culture, a taste of which will be on view starting Saturday at the Southampton Arts Center. The International Center of Photography’s upcoming exhibition, “¡Cuba, Cuba!” is the first of its kind, featuring approximately 150 posters and photographs by American and Cuban artists—including East End residents Burt Glinn and Elliott Erwitt—which span from pre-revolutionary Cuba to the present, showing a 65-year progression through landscapes and portraits, according to Iliana Cepero, who curated the exhibit with Pauline Vermare.

“I think when you see the contemporary work, you realize how much Cuban photography has evolved and developed from all these iconic images that people remember,” Ms. Cepero explained last week in a telephone interview. “These images, they are beautiful and very appealing—but Cuba moved on from that era a long time ago. And I think people are going to see the show and see that Cuban photographers don’t look at that anymore. They have created their own aesthetic and their own way to view reality that is very different from that.”

Ms. Cepero emigrated from Cuba to Canada in 2006. She interned with ICP two years ago while finishing her dissertation at Stanford University, earning her doctorate in art history. Currently, Ms. Cepero teaches topics in Cuban culture at New York University and as an adjunct professor at The Cooper Union.

“All of these ideas that people have about Cuba is not the reality,” she said. “We want to represent everyday life and how the struggles, hopes and contritions fit all together and create new realities for us every single day. I think one of the goals is to see the dynamic between how art and photography has responded to our social and political reality.”

Southampton resident Renee Harbers Liddell, executive vice president of the ICP board and exhibition sponsor, alongside her husband, Christopher, said she expects many different reactions to the show.

“You can approach it from a variety of different angles,” she explained. “There’s a vibrant culture, but there are a lot of issues with the U.S. and their relationship with Cuba. We have Cuban-Americans who are hesitant to patch up relations with Cuba. So not only do you have a lot of cultural conversations that can start, but there are also a lot of political conversations that can, as well.

“I don’t personally have an agenda. I don’t know where I fall on the whole situation. I am looking forward to the show, so I can talk to people and read about it.”

She added, with a laugh, “I do, however, have a strong opinion about how I like my mojitos!”

“¡Cuba, Cuba!” will be on view from Thursday, August 13, through September 7 at the Southampton Arts Center. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, August 15, starting at 5 p.m. Admission is free. Gallery hours are Thursday from noon to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit southamptoncenter.org.

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