Cuba in the 20th Century: Seen through the Lens of Great Photographers

Brett Abbott, one of the organizers, defines the exhibition as a journey in time across the island.

Susadny González Rodríguez
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2011-05-30

Anthological photographs that bear witness to episodes of Cuban history in the 20th century are the theme of the exhibition A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now, which is on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, one of the most visited in the United States.

Photographs which reflect local customs, taken by U.S.-born Evans, are the main attraction of the display which consists of 138 snapshots. Works by Korda, Osvaldo Salas, Raúl Corrales, Liborio Nobal, Perfecto Romero, Tirso Martínez and Mario García Joya recreate the revolutionary period; while Alex Harris, Virginia Beahan and Alexey Titarenko offer their vision of our contemporary world.

Brett Abbott, one of the organizers of the event, described the exhibition as a journey in time across the island. It begins with a historical panorama of Gerardo Machado’s regime, where Evans captures the beauty of trivial, everyday objects in a series of 55 shots.

Famous for portraying the North American way of life during the period of the “Great Depression,” Evans immortalized the contrasts of the Cuban capital at that time, ranging from humble stevedores and slums to people from the upper class.

Guerrillero Heroico (Heroic Guerrilla Fighter), the most reproduced image of Che, taken by Korda on March 5, 1960, occupies a place of honor in the hall next to Patria o Muerte (Homeland or Death), in which Salas captures the frenzy of the Cuban people after the victory of 1959.

In comments to reporters, Christian Skrein, an Austrian collector, said “It may be the first reproduction,” referring to what is regarded as a visual icon. Skrein donated the photo and some of the shots displayed at the museum.

A photograph taken by Corrales captured Fidel Castro during his visit to the home of writer Ernest Hemingway, in May 1960.

The last part of the exhibition is a reconstruction of the years known in Cuba as the “Special Period,” and the first decade of the 21st century. The presence of color is a kind of allegory of customs and ways the Cuban people come face to face with their own reality.

The installations of the impressive Getty Center, owned by an oil magnate, will host the exhibition until October 2nd.

Translated by Xelcis A. Presno

Revised by Susana Hurlich

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