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Cross Currents/intercambio Cultural

The National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) and the Smart Museum of Art present their first-ever collaborative exhibition, Cross Currents/Intercambio Cultural. Based on the results of an exchange between six Latino/a artists living in Chicago and six artists from Havana, the exhibition will then travel to Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, Havana, Cuba, in January 2020.

In Spring 2017, the Chicago artists and the Chicago-based curators traveled to Havana. During the exchange there, they met with local artists and curators, visited studios, and explored cultural spaces and the city. In Fall 2017 and Summer 2018, the Cuban artists and the Cuban curator visited Chicago and continued to build relationships with their Chicago peers while also touring the city’s museums and neighborhoods, and getting to know the arts community in Chicago. The artists used their experiences to develop new work for the exhibition that also reflects on their own artistic practices at this moment in time.

The Chicago Latino/a artists who participated in the exchange have roots in countries all over Latin America. Some have been in the Midwest for generations, others are recent arrivals. They are: Alberto Aguilar (b. 1974, Chicago); Carlos Barberena (b. 1972, Nicaragua); Dianna Frid (Mexican, Canadian, and American); Rodrigo Lara Zendejas (b. 1981, Toluca, Mexico); Harold Mendez (b. 1977, Chicago); and Edra Soto (b. 1971, San Juan, Puerto Rico). The Cuban artists are mostly based in Havana and the majority attended the prestigious national art school, the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA). They are Humberto Díaz (b. 1975, Cuba), Susana Pilar Delahante Matienzo (b. 1984, Cuba), Douglas Pérez (b. 1972, Cuba), Alejandro González (b. 1974, Cuba), Celia-Yunior (Celia Gonzalez [b. 1985, Cuba] & Yunior Aguiar [b. 1984, Cuba]), and Requer (Renier Quer Figueredo, b. 1983, Cuba).

Left: Harold Mendez, Untitled (We are a thousand petals to no one), 2019, Obsidian, water, and carnation and alstroemeria petals. Harold Mendez, Sin Nombre, 2018, Cotton, graphite, gesso, watercolor, toner, litho crayon on ball grained aluminum lithographic plate mounted on Dibond. Courtesy of the artist and Patron Gallery. Right: Alejandro González, Pelos en la lengua, 2017, Archival pigment ink print photographs mounted to Sintra panels. Alejandro González, Uno p'alante y dos p'atrás, 2018, 16 mm black and white film stop-motion animation, digital transfer, 2:10 minutes. Courtesy of the artist.
Foreground: Humberto Diaz, Failed Dream, 2019, Used furniture and objects. Courtesy of the artist. Background (left to right): Dianna Frid, Soledad, 2019, Canvas, paper, embroidery floss, aluminum and paint. Dianna Frid, From Before You Had a Name, 2017, Plaster, cardboard, cement, paint, wood, canvas, embroidery floss, metal, rocks and minerals.

Co-curator Cesáreo Moreno reflected: “The story of Cross Currents in many ways reflects recent changes to the social and political landscapes in the United States and Cuba. When it was first proposed in 2016 by the National Museum of Mexican Art, the exchange embodied a moment of excitement and renewed openness. Relations have since chilled: the US Embassy in Cuba has closed, a new administration in Washington is intent on hardening borders, and in Cuba, Decreto 349 subjects artists to new forms of censorship and governmental regulation. The original mandate of opening artistic dialogue remains essential, now more than ever.”

Cross Currents features works in a variety of media, including painting, photography, video, sculpture, and installations. The Co-curator Raquel Carrera remarked: “Even when we took into account the range of media, the key characteristics for the selection of artists was their ability to interact with new contexts. Each of them had shown in their careers that they are interested in observing and responding to stimuli different from those of their hometown environment. This allowed them to be especially receptive to the experience of the cultural exchange.”

Cross Currents celebrates the opening of pathways of communication and understanding between previously unconnected individuals and communities,” said Co-curator Alison Fraunhar. “As we explore the similarities and differences between the Latino/a communities in Chicago and Cubans in Havana, we hope that this exchange dispels mythologies and reveals twelve incredible artists working on the forefront of global contemporary art.”

Celia-Yunior, An Ecology of Frictions, 2019, Wood trellis, soil, Boston ivy, LED grow lamps, book with podium. Courtesy of the artists.


The University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood Ave.
Chicago, Illinois

JULY 11–AUGUST 18, 2019

Featured image: Douglas Pérez, La historia del tabaco (Nobody has known and loved as he has), 2012, Installation: oil paint on canvas (diptych) and red velvet wall covering. Courtesy of the artist. Rodrigo Lara Zendejas, Untitled Installation, 2019, Plastic plants, Astro Turf, tin cans, wood panels, dowel rods, and ceramic figures. Courtesy of the artist.

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