The 8th Floor Gallery in New York exhibits from March 7 through July 18, the group exhibition of Cuban art “Drapetomanía: Grupo Antillano and the Art of Afro-Cuba” organized by historian and Harvard professor Alejandro de la Fuente.
The exhibition pays tribute to the Grupo Antillano, cultural and artistic movement, engaged in the promotion between 1978 and 1983 of a vision that emphasized the importance of African and Afro-Caribbean elements in the formation of national identity, and in turn counterattack the vision of the religious practices of African origin as primitive and backward.
After passing through New York, the exhibition will travel to the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco (Fall 2014) and the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery in the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University (Spring 2015).
Originally exhibited at the Provincial Center of Plastic Arts and Design in Santiago de Cuba ( April-May 2013 ) , where it was described as “one of the best examples of fine arts in recent years in Santiago de Cuba , ” drapetomania” includes works by Grupo Antillano artists as Esteban Ayala , Rogelio Rodríguez Cobas, Manuel Couceiro , Herminio Escalona , Ever Fonseca, Ramón Haiti, Adelaida Herrera, Arnaldo Rodriguez Larrinaga , Oscar Rodríguez Lasseria, Alberto Lescay, Manuel Mendive, Leonel Morales, Clara Morera, Miguel Ocejo , Rafael Queneditt and Julia Valdes.
It also includes several contemporary artists who have shown in their work similar ideas to those articulated by this group, as Belkis Ayon, José Bedia , Eduardo Roca Salazar “Choco ” , Juan Roberto Diago, Alexis Esquivel, Marta Maria Perez Bravo , Andres Montalvan , concerns Santiago Rodríguez Olazábal , Douglas Pérez , René Peña , Elio Rodriguez and Leandro Soto.
The title of the exhibition refers to the terminology used by a doctor of slaves in the mid- nineteenth century, who described a disease typical of slaves: the drapetomania from the the Greek drapetes (escape) and mania (madness) whose most visible symptom was a pathological tendency of many slaves to flee and be free. The doctor described the maroons as a condition, a deviation from the natural order.
Drapetomania is sponsored by the Afro-Latin American Research Institute of Harvard University, with financial support from the Ford Foundation and the Christopher Reynolds Foundation. The exhibition is complemented by the book Grupo Antillano: The Art of Afro-Cuba, edited by De la Fuente, with essays by art critics and historians as Guillermina Ramos Cruz, José Veigas and Judith Bettelheim.
The 8th Floor Gallery (17 West 17th St.) is a private exhibition space created to promote cultural and philanthropic initiatives. Founded in 2010, recent exhibitions have focused on contemporary Cuban art under the direction of curator Rachel Perera Weingeist, in collaboration with partners in Cuba. Access to The 8th Floor Gallery is free and open to the public.