AJIACO: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul is now on display at the Paul & Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum.

In 1939 Fernando Ortiz first characterized Cuban culture as ajiaco: a rich stew consisting of a large variety of ingredients cooked until a thick broth is formed. It is this synthesis which is the essence of Cuban art. It embraces and visualizes the very nature of the Cuban soul and reveals the profundity of its expression. This is the subject of AJIACO: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul.

AJIACO is focused on that which serves as a source for all of Latin American art – its spirituality. It engages the visitor as they view, participate in, watch and listen to the roots of Cuban culture from its sources in Africa, Asia, Spain, China, and indigenous culture. The art in this unique and timely exhibition, and it incorporates the tales of the Orisha of Africa, the calligraphy of the Tao Te Ching, the environment, feminist issues, and the rituals of indigenous peoples. The formats change, the materials vary, but the element that remains constant between the Cuban and Cuban-American artists is a commitment to the visualization of the syncretistic mix that is Cuban culture.

Organized by the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, CT, the exhibition is guest-curated by Gail Gelburd, Ph. D., Chair of the Visual Arts Department and Associate Professor of Art History at Eastern Connecticut State University.  She has been conducting research on Cuban art and artists for over 15 years. She has traveled regularly to Cuba and has lectured for the Havana Biennale, Havana University, and Casa Africa in Cuba. She has also given presentations on the intersection of art, politics, and spirituality in Taiwan, Korea, South Africa, Australia, England, and Wales, and at such major institutions as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Williams College, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Gelburd has received numerous grants and awards, including a Rockefeller Foundation grant to conduct research on Cuban art.

Dr. Gelburd wrote the companion reference to the show, also entitled AJIACO.  She is working on a new book, Cuba and the Art of Revolution. Her article “Beyond the Hype: Cuban Art” appeared in Reconstruction: Issues in Contemporary Culture in Winter 2008, and another article “Cuba: The Art of Trading with the Enemy” was published in Art Journal in Spring 2009. Other publications include Bearden in Black and White and The Transparent Thread: Asian Philosophy in Recent American Art.

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