This summer, The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum is heating things up with two new and exciting exhibits – Green Machine: The Art of Carlos Luna, exhibiting June 13 – September 13 and Creole World: Photographs of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere, exhibiting June 13 – August 23.
Green Machine, organized by guest curator Dr. Barbaro Martinez Ruiz, showcases Luna’s cross-pollination of influences from living and working in Cuba until 1991, then in Mexico for 13 years, and now in Miami since 2002. The traveling exhibition, Creole World, features 50 photographs and was organized by and premiered at the Historic New Orleans Collection in 2014.
Creole World: Photos of New Orleans & Latin Caribbean Sphere
Forty years ago his journey began. Photographer/author Richard Sexton left his Atlanta home in 1974 in a Datsun station wagon to explore Latin America and the Caribbean. Many years later his adventure would manifest into a photographic journey capturing the architectural and urban similarities of Latin Caribbean cities throughout the interconnected Creole world: Haiti, Colombia, Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Panama and New Orleans. The accompanying book includes more than 200 photographs, plus essays by Creole scholar Jay D. Edwards and photography historian John H. Lawrence.
“Richard Sexton’s photography can be called documentary but his photographic explorations push far beyond the realm of recording the world,” said the Director of the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum – FIU, Dr. Jordana Pomeroy. “Creole World became a project of passion, immersion, and discovery. Sexton dove into his subject matter and emerged with a body of work that visually ties together Caribbean and South American cultures that share strands of history – some ugly, some beautiful, but always compelling.”
The gestation period of this project was long and gradual, 38 years of Sexton’s pilgrimages to sites of Creoleness. In 2006, a return trip to Latin America (Sexton’s first visit since his initial sojourn in 1974 when he was 20 years old), the artist’s reunion with Latin America sparked the idea for a book of photographic essays mapping the visual, cultural and historical connections shared between New Orleans, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The images feature exotic urban locations and neighborhoods that are difficult to travel to and challenging to photograph – due to politics, warfare and natural disasters. Places such as El Chorillo in Panama City; Cuba’s Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba and La Habana; and post-2010 earthquake Haiti’s Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Cap-Haïtien. The book describes these cities as an entire family of cultural cousins with similar Colonial histories. The essays refer to them as places that were founded as New World outposts of Old World empires, forging new identities and cultures from European, West African and indigenous influences – by turns inspired by and in defiance of, and adapted from all of them. Other locales on this visual sojourn include Cartagena de Indias, Quito, Panama City and of course – New Orleans.
Photos courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection. All photos © Richard Sexton.
Richard Sexton lives in New Orleans and is renowned for his books and exhibitions about architectural photography. His work has been published in Smithsonian Magazine, Preservation Magazine, Abitare, Archetype, Harper’s and Photographer’s Forum.He received the 2014 Michael Smith Memorial Award for Documentary Photography from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
When asked about how this exhibition could connect to audiences in Miami at the Frost Art Museum – FIU, Richard Sexton says:
“Miami is a place of great cultural relevancy now,” said Richard Sexton. “So many Miamians come from the Caribbean and Latin America, and this work is an homage to their Creole world – its sensual architecture, its bold tropical colors and foliage, and vibrant street life. Beautiful, seductive, exotic and irresistible.”
“This immigrant population in Miami knows their Creole world first-hand,” adds Sexton. “They are a critical mass, transforming Miami into a new kind of place – a multi-lingual, multi-cultural polyglot. New Orleans is the historical example of this cultural phenomenon, and Miami is now the contemporary example. Places that are appreciated for their Creole-influenced cuisine, music, culture and architecture. Miami is now part of the Creole World. It’s all about the power of hybridity.”
More about Richard Sexton and his biography at richardsextonstudio.com. Read his Creole World blog at creoleworld.tumblr.com. Sexton will appear at Books & Books in Coral Gables for a book signing on Friday, June 12 at 6:30 p.m.
Green Machine: The Art of Carlos Luna
One of the foremost contemporary Cuban artists, Carlos Luna is part of a generation of artists who embrace their strong Cuban heritage and traditions but have reinvented themselves along the way. The exhibition spans 5,000 square feet in the museum’s Grand Galleries. It features more than 120 artworks, most shown for the first time and some created in new mediums the artist has been experimenting with during the past four years, including: Jacquard tapestries and works on metal sheets with patina and aluminum leaf, created at Magnolia Editions; Talavera ceramic plates created in Puebla, Mexico; mixed media on paper/on wood; and his large-scale oil on canvas paintings.
“Citing Rufino Tamayo and Wifredo Lam as major influences, Carlos Luna tells stories and relates fables that are culturally attuned to shifts in the social and political environments of the three countries where he has lived and created art,” said the Director of the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum – FIU, Dr. Jordana Pomeroy, “and the humanity that makes these places so vibrant.” Carlos Luna has worked as an artist during three equal periods of time in Miami, in Puebla, Mexico and Cuba.
Luna continues to create his Talavera ceramic pottery at the famed Santa Catarina Studios in Puebla, Mexico. He also works at the Magnolia studios in California where his tapestries are designed and produced. The title Green Machine alludes to the importance of the rain forest known as El Monte, a sacred space in the Afro-Cuban tradition one must enter to find meaning. The machine represents the mechanism that perpetuates life’s continuity. Combined, these ideas represent the artist leaving behind his rural past and his contemplative journey into the present moment.
“The best artist is the one who makes his art a science,” adds Luna. “And the best scientist is the one who makes an art of his science.”
The towering centerpiece of the exhibition, El Gran Mambo, is a massive six-panel painting chronicling the artist’s own story. “El Gran Mambo tells the story of my journey through three countries,” says Luna, adding that music passionately fuels his creative process while he’s painting.
“The musicality and rhythm of El Gran Mambo are powerful elements of this centerpiece.”
Photos courtesy of Carlos Luna studio.
Luna also cites as his artistic influences the musical masters Benny More and Ismael Rivero. According to guest curator Barbaro Martinez Ruiz, the exhibition at the Frost Art Museum -FIU draws upon Cuba’s rich, oft-forgotten rural culture and popular wisdom, plus Afro-Cuban religious traditions. The work itself teems with edgy political commentaries, delivering a verbal-visual punch to map his journey with proverbs, riddles and graffiti-like scrawls.
“The United States is a country with immigrants from everywhere, and this gives me the opportunity to be in contact with the world.”
This exhibition is made possible with the support of Bacardi North America, Siempre Viva Art Foundation, and the Israel, Rose, Henry and Robert Wiener Charitable Foundation in Honor of Dr. Carol Damian.
Carlos Luna and Richard Sexton will attend the opening reception for both exhibitions – Green Machine, Creole World.
The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University opened its current 46,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building in November 2008. Admission to the Museum is always free. The Frost is an American Alliance of Museums accredited museum and Smithsonian Affiliate, and is located at 10975 SW 17th Street, across from the Blue Garage and adjacent to the Wertheim Performing Arts Center on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. Closed on Mondays and most legal holidays. For more information, please visit thefrost.fiu.edu or call 305-348-2890. Follow: Twitter Facebook