What happens when artists who come from different worlds encounter one another through art? How does access to information and materials in the U.S. and the constraint and lack in Cuba affect making art? What does a dialogue look like without words? The exhibition “Hecho en Tránsito / Made in Transit” that is currently presented at the LIU Salena gallery, is posing these questions with rigor. The artwork in this show is resulting of a long term project which was designed to foster intercultural dialogue between U.S. and Cuban artists, primarily through the exchange and collaborative creation of artwork. The visual dialogue between the artists is sustained in thought provoking ways across time, place, cultural differences, and political transitions.
Curator and artist Katarina Wong, who initiated this project, drew upon the Surrealist “exquisite corpse” game, in which artists work on a single artwork. The exhibition includes collaborative works by four U.S. and four Cuban artists. First, Wong paired artists with diverse visual vocabularies and at different points in their art careers. Then, she collected a piece of art from each of them. Over the next twenty four months, the artist pairs transformed each other’s work with complete freedom to define how they wanted to work together.
It turned out that all of the artists chose not to communicate with one another except through the artwork, and also agreed that any changes were allowable – manifesting a remarkable level of creative trust. Approximately every four to five months Wong transported the pieces back and forth, overall swapping them about five times over the course of the project – these iterations are displayed here in sequence along with clear explanations. The project exhibited in both Cuba and the U.S., accompanied by programming such as artist talks, panel discussions about the importance of cross-cultural dialogue, and workshops that invited artists and viewers to collaborate on work together.
Wong’s curiosity to see what would happen if artists could be “in dialogue” with one another through the mutual making of artwork has not come out of the blue – it sprouted over time through her life experience. Wong has visited Cuba to meet family several times since childhood, and with increasing frequency once Obama opened the diplomatic relationship.
Throughout those recent visits she grew more familiar with Cuban artists and curators, which made her realize that they did not have many opportunities to see contemporary American art and vice versa. The idea for the show galvanized quickly in early 2015. In the late summer of that year the artists already started working. It had the feeling of an experiment with open-ended outcomes – “I kept the premise simple and let the artists run with it,” she says.
The artists were paired based on shared sensibilities or media, and the pairs overall counterpoint each other. While Christopher K. Ho and Rigoberto Diaz Martinez share a more conceptual way of approaching their work, Travis LeRoy Southworth and Lisbet Roldan share an interest in deconstructing the figure. Doug Beube’s sculptural work made of collages, books, texts, and photographs, paired well with Lizandra Rodriguez’s site-specific installation, set design, and a series of carved wax panels. Aylen Russinyol and Laurel Farrin are both painters, albeit with different approaches – Farrin’s abstractions complimented Russinyol’s mixed media sensibility; altogether they conjured imagined spaces defined by the architecture of Cuba and Europe. The viewer in this show is not only invited to engage with an individual artwork, but also to keep in mind the collaborative effort across cultures and geographies – this process and its resulting artworks embody on the whole the redemptive elements of art.
Salena Gallery, LIU Brooklyn
The exhibition runs throught April 27th, 2018
Location: intersection of DeKalb and Flatbush Avenues, downtown Brooklyn
Hours: 9-6 Monday-Friday, 10-5 Saturday/Sunday