Critics’ Picks

Angel Delgado, Untitled, 1999, colored pencil and cold cream on fabric handkerchief, 17 3/4 x 16 1/2".

New York

“Revolution Not Televised”

Bronx Museum of the Arts
1040 Grand Concourse
July 19 - October 7

Drawing its title from Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 song-poem, the exhibition “revolution not televised” demonstrates how the phrase takes on new meaning in postrevolutionary Cuba. The word Revolución, for instance, is repeated over a thousand pages of a book until it becomes at once monumental and illegible in Reynier Leyva Novo’s Revolución una y mil veces (Revolution a thousand and one times), 2011. Angel Delgado demonstrates that the repression of political art merely begets new practices, as his abstract “Pañuelos” (Handkerchiefs) series, 1999–2000, was made using found materials during his six-month incarceration for defecating on the Communist paper Granma at an art opening.

Despite such risks, Cuban artists continue to appropriate and undermine Communist iconography. Fidel Castro’s voice haunts the show through José A. Toirac’s Opus, 2005, a simple projection of numbers (and accompanying audio) from the Cuban president’s speeches, which Toirac compiled to emphasize the political discourse of quantification and accumulation. While Castro dominates Opus, he is excised from history in the artist’s collaboration with Meira Marrero Diaz, One Year in the Life, 2002—a scrapbook of photos from a year’s print run of Granma that conspicuously eliminates Castro’s image.

In addition to subverting political rhetoric, the art on view also offers avenues for dissent. Los Carpinteros slyly defy the policies of the regime in their architectural rendering Piscina llena (Filled Pool), 2001. The watercolor drawing depicts a placeless gray mass encircled with ladders, referring to the official ban on private pools in Cuba. Coopting public language, Ernesto Leal films snippets of posters and signs in his video Diglossia, 2010. By stringing together words such as socialism, history, and participate to form calls to action, Leal models the possibilities for activism in a repressed society.