Stealing Base : Cuba at Bat

Arles del Río, Untitled from the series Esperando que caigan las cosas del cielo o Deporte nacional, 2012. Oil on cardboard. 55 x 74.8 inches.

 Stealing Base: Cuba at Bat
Curated by Rachel Weingeist and Orlando Hernández
June 6th – September 6th 2013
The 8th Floor
Tuesday and Thursday 11 – 6 pm; Wednesday 12 – 7 pm and by appointment.

NEW YORK, NY —The Cuban Art Project -The 8th Floor is pleased to present Stealing Base: Cuba at Bat, a visual exploration of baseball through the varied perspectives of Cuban-born artists. The exhibition includes installation, video, and painting by established and emerging artists Jeosviel Abstengo-Chaviano, Alejandro Aguilera, Carlos Cárdenas, Yunier Hernández Figueroa, Rafael Lopez-Ramos, Duniesky Martín, Alfredo Manzo, Frank Martínez, Bernardo Navarro, Reynier Levya Novo, Arles del Río, Antuan Rodriguez, Perfecto Romero, Reynerio Tamayo, José Toirac, Harold Vázquez Ley, and Villavilla. The exhibition features work by artists never before seen in the New York.

“Baseball is today, without distinction of classes, age and sex, the preferred diversion of all [Cubans].”
– El Sport (Havana), Sept. 2, 1886

The arrival of baseball in Cuba coincided with the emergence of the independence movement in 1868. The sport quickly became a collective emblem of national identity. A love for baseball connects Cubans across race, religion, politics and geography. Pop-flys, stolen bases, and home runs provide meaningful and accessible imagery for Cuban artists. Responding not only to the sport as national pastime, their work has further sought to convey larger complexities within Cuban society. Stealing Base presents the work of a diverse range of contemporary artists, living in Cuba and in the US, who have found potency in the imagery of the sport.

 Rafael Lopez-Ramos, "Hablando en chino", 2006 - 2013, acrylic and collage on canvas, 33¾” x 47¼". (Detail)

Rafael Lopez-Ramos, “Hablando en chino”, 2006 – 2013, acrylic and collage on canvas, 33¾” x 47¼”. (Detail)

In El Cuarto Bate (The Cleanup Hitter), Reynerio Tamayo depicts, in his playful cartoon-like style, the figure of an addled baseball player with a ship of characters—La Caridad del Cobre, a santero, fans—upon his shoulders, carrying the weight of the Cuban people’s expectations. The player wearing a national uniform emblemizes the importance of baseball as a welcomed distraction from every day struggle. Conversely, Arles del Río’s sculpture Hoping that Things Fall from the Sky suggests a more stark perspective. A skeletal bronze arm reaches up from a tattered concrete base. A well-worn baseball mitt stretched into the air waits for something that it seems will never come. Frank Martinez’s precise charcoal drawing, Another Way to Overcome the Boundaries, juxtaposes a player reaching for a fly ball against the construction of the Berlin Wall. Just out of his grasp, the ball passes over the heads of the military officers laying bricks. Viewers are prompted to consider the success of baseball as a Cuban cultural ambassador. Considering both salt as a remnant and a resource in his photographic series The Limits of Salt, Harold Vázquez Ley uses the ubiquitous mineral to create forms that resemble sports highlights from black and white periodicals. The potent image captures the thrill of a hitter’s first contact, while the use of grains of salt, an essential commodity, prompts viewers to question their role as spectators distracted by the thrill of sport as resources are quickly depleting.

Stealing Base: Cuba at Bat is a result of a continued collaboration between Orlando Hernández, Havana-based curator, and Rachel Weingeist, Director and Curator, The 8th Floor, with an exhibition essay by Mr. Hernández. A series of events celebrating baseball and Cuban culture will take place throughout the summer, including film screenings and artists’ talks. To inaugurate the exhibition, an artists’ reception will be held on Thursday, June 6th from 6-8 pm. For the duration of the exhibition, The 8th Floor will be open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays 11-6 and Wednesday 12-7 pm and by appointment. For more information please contact Anna Gonick, anna@the8thfloor.org or (646) 738-3988.

The 8th Floor is a private exhibition and event space established to promote cultural and philanthropic initiatives. Opened in 2010, the space features exhibitions inspired by the Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection. Under the direction of curator Rachel Weingiest, and working with partners in Cuba, recent shows have primarily focused on the presentation of contemporary Cuban art. In addition to public exhibitions, The 8th Floor hosts a range of events in support of the interests of The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

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