Under the Spell of the Palm Tree: The Rice Collection of Cuban Art
Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida
July 11, 2023 - January 10, 2024
Curators: Gabriela Azcuy and David Horta
Artists: Belkis Ayón, Abel Barroso, José Bedia, Cundo Bermúdez, Tania Bruguera, Iván Capote, Mario Carreño, Liset Castillo, Salvador Corratgé, Pedro de Oraá, Juan Roberto Diago, Roberto Diago Durruthy, Carlos Enríquez, Roberto Fabelo, Ernesto Javier Fernández, Adrián Fernández, José A. Figueroa, Carlos Garaicoa, Inti Hernández, Alex Hernández, Ricardo Miguel Hernández, Jesús Hdez-Guero, Alberto Lago, Wifredo Lam, Jorge Lavoy, Ernesto Leal, Glenda León, Reynier Leyva (Chino Novo), Kadir López, Jacqueline Maggi, Manuel Mendive, Frank Mujica, Mabel Poblet, Eduardo Ponjuán, René Portocarrero, Pedro Pablo Oliva, Ángel Ramírez, Sandra Ramos, Enrique Riverón, René Francisco Rodríguez, José Rosabal, Lázaro Saavedra, Emilio Sánchez, Tomás Sánchez, Esterio Segura, Rafael Soriano, Alfredo Sosabravo, Stainless (Alejandro Piñeiro, José Capaz and Roberto Fabelo Hung), José A. Toirac, Alexi Torres, Antonio Vidal, José Angel Vincench.
Under the Spell of the Palm Tree: The Rice Collection of Cuban Art traces the Rice family’s decade-long path of discovering the art and artists of Cuba. This inaugural exhibition drawn from a collection of 230 works of art presents 79 paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, mixed media, art books, and sculptures by fifty-three artists selected and organized along six themes: The Language of Forms and the Forms of Language; The Prophet’s Dream; The Great Journey; Sensory Landscapes of Memory and Desire; The Musings of Narcissus; and The Spirit of the Real, the Reality of the Spirit.
The exhibition deviates from a traditional historical narrative and is presented as a compass rather than a timeline―a map for a journey through the varying themes, genres, and styles that align with the sensibilities of two generations of collectors in the Rice family.
The guide for this winding course of visual and conceptual ideas is the family’s unwavering admiration of Cuban artistic culture―epitomized here by the royal palm tree, the unifying symbol of ‘Cubanness.’ Their esteem for the art and the people of Cuba brings meaning and bestows consistency to the collection, making a strong whole of the multiplicity of parts.
The six thematic sections in Under the Spell of the Palm Tree wind through the exhibition space like convolutions of the brain, articulating individual yet functionally inseparable hemispheres. The analytical and cynical coexist with the emotional, intuitive, spiritual, and fantastical.
On one side, artists express an acute engagement with Cuba´s history, society, and culture. Their work centers on the utopias and dystopias found in the myths and aspirations of the Cuban psyche against a backdrop of totalitarianism, freedom fights, and migration.
But another direction along the pathway reveals an undertone of sensuality, imagination, and wit, a reconnection with nature, a search for self-awareness and transcendence, a personal ideal of art and beauty that is both abstract and concrete.
Taken together, the art within the exhibition―and in the Rice Collection as a whole―comprise a complete topography of shared imagery, symbolism, ideals, and allegories.