Billed as an exhibit introducing a new generation of artists from Cuba, Polaridad Complementaria is on view at both the Newcomb Gallery at Tulane University as well as at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Made up of more than 50 works by 27 artists exhibited in the Havana Biennial over the past 10 years, and curated by Margarita Sanchez for the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo Wifredo Lam in Havana, it aims to "provide a sense of the aesthetic and conceptual concerns that characterize the island's art today." And there is much intriguing work that's spare like a lot of Cuban art but often visually dramatic and engaging.
There also is a lot to remind us Cuba really is another world. There are elements of critique, but they are not always easy to fathom. Lidzie Alvisa's Eyes That Do Not Wish To See And Ears That Do Not Wish To Hear at the Newcomb Gallery features two photos of a girl with needles covering the hollows of her eyes and ears. This makes a dramatic statement, but at whom is it directed?
Fernando Rodriguez's Ball Bearing is a sculpture of interlocking metal gears, which viewed closely, are made up of many stylized human forms. A wall text describes it as examining "the individual and society, collectivism and individualism, freedom and censorship," but it's never entirely clear where that's heading. Muted political statements are not the same as poetic ambiguity. It would be easy to jump to conclusions, but in the absence of the context, we can only guess.
The most dramatic piece is comprised of a gigantic metal dagger impaling old suitcases. Titled Damned Trips (pictured) by Roberto Fabelo, the whole thing is suspended from the ceiling, and it clearly is intended to say something, but what? Overall, it is a show worth seeing for its quality, drama and thoughtfulness, even if some of the thoughts get lost in translation. — D. Eric bookhardt
Polaridad Complementaria: Recent Works from Cuba
Through March 14
New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 658-4100; www.noma.org
Newcomb Art Gallery, Tulane University, 865-5328; www.tulane.edu/~newcomb