Wednesday May 23, 2018

Fall Bookshelf: Art, Film, Photography, Music, and More

Recent publications reflect growing interest in Cuban arts and culture.


Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta. Howard Oransky, ed. (University of California Press). Ana Mendieta (1948–1985) was born to a prominent family in Havana but grew up in the U.S. Regarded as one of the significant artists of the postwar era, she produced a body of work that included drawings, installations, performances, photographs, and sculptures, as well as more than 100 films. The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection and Galerie Lelong have preserved and digitized 21 of Mendieta’s films, which will be shown at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota September 15-December 12. Written in English, the catalogue includes a comprehensive filmography, color stills from the films, plus related photographs and stills from other film works, along with original essays by John Perreault, Michael Rush, Rachel Weiss, Lynn Lukkas, Raquel Cecilia Mendieta, and Laura Wertheim Joseph.

Dangerous Moves: Politics and Performance in Cuba. By Coco Fusco (Tate Publishing). Cuban-American artist and writer Coco Fusco explores performance and politics in post-Revolutionary Cuba, showing how performance—including performance art, music, and poetry—has emerged as a means of social commentary. Written in English, the volume is slated for publication on November 15.

La Tercera Orilla. Arte Cubano Contempóraneo. By Eleonora Battiston, Ricardo Forriols, and Guilbert Rosales. (Poligrafico del Titano, 2015). The curators of the exhibition La Tercera Orilla: Arte Cubano Contempóraneo (The Third Shore: Contemporary Cuban Art), which was presented earlier this year at the Kir Royal Gallery and the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain, also authored this trilingual (Spanish, English, Italian) catalogue. Like the show, it’s a cross-generational look at contemporary Cuban art through the work of 14 artists, including Alexis Esquivel, Glenda León, Carlos Martiel, and José Bedia.




Arsenio Rodriguez: El Profeta de la Musica Afrocubana (The Prophet of Afrocuban Music) (Volume 1). Jairo Grijalba Ruiz and Erik Dahyana Portilla (illustrator and designer). (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015).  Colombian writer and anthropologist Jairo Grijalba Ruiz has compiled ten volumes documenting the life and career of legendary Cuban composer and band leader Arsenio Rodríguez (1911–1970). Blinded at age seven when he was kicked by a horse, Arsenio became known as “el Ciego Maravilloso” (the Blind Marvel). He developed the conjunto, an instrumental format that featured the conga drum and which revolutionized the Cuban son. He composed more than 200 songs, and his musical innovations paved the way for modern-day salsa. Music historian Kevin Moore stated that "It took fifty years for Latin music to catch up with what Arsenio was doing in the 1940s." The result of two decades of research, Grijalba Ruiz’s monumental study, written in Spanish, offers a detailed history of this influential musician: “precursor of the mambo, king of the guaguancó, and father of salsa.”

Wildman of Rhythm: The Life and Music of Benny Moré. John Radanovich. (University Press of Florida). Singer and band leader Benny Moré (1919–1963) was an icon of Cuban music in the 1950s, performing on radio and in clubs and cabarets. Known for his powerful and expressive boleros and up-tempo songs, he was dubbed “El Bárbaro del Ritmo,” the wildman of rhythm. Moré formed the popular Banda Gigante, which toured throughout Latin America and the U.S. Music journalist John Radanovich offers this definitive biography of Moré, informed by interviews with family members and musicians who performed with him, along with background on the Cuban music scene of the 1950s. In English.

VIDEO: “Bruca maniguá” - Arsenio Rodríguez

VIDEO: “Dolor Karavalí” - Benny Moré & Pérez Prado

Cuban Underground Hip Hop: Black Thoughts, Black Revolution, Black Modernity. Tanya L. Saunders. (University of Texas Press). The Cuban Revolution declared the end of racism within its borders, yet social inequalities tied to racism, sexism, and homophobia endured, and economic disparities began to reemerge. Tanya L. Saunders, an assistant professor in the Department of African American and African Studies at Ohio State University, has studied “a group of self-described antiracist, revolutionary youth who initiated a social movement (1996–2006) to educate and fight against these inequalities through the use of arts-based political activism intended to spur debate and enact social change.” Based on a decade of research and interviews, she traces the history of this movement from its inception to the exodus of these activists/artists from Cuba, and sheds light on identity politics, race, sexuality, and gender in Cuba and the Americas. In English; publication date: November 30.

Negro Soy Yo: Hip Hop and Raced Citizenship in Neoliberal Cuba (Refiguring American Music). Mark D. Perry. (Duke University Press Books). Marc D. Perry, assistant professor of anthropology and African and African diaspora studies at Tulane University, explores Cuba’s hip hop movement as a window into the racial complexities of the island’s ongoing transition from revolutionary socialism toward free-market capitalism. He focuses on the music and lives of black-identified raperos and how they form notions of black Cuban identity and racial citizenship in a society perceived as “non-racial.” Situating hip hop within a long history of Cuban racial politics, Perry discusses the artistic and cultural exchanges between raperos and North American rappers and activists, and their relationships with older Afro-Cuban intellectuals and African American political exiles. He also examines critiques of Cuban patriarchy by female raperas, the competing rise of reggaetón, and state efforts to incorporate hip hop into its cultural institutions. In English; publication date: December 30.


Cuba 1959. Burt Glinn, Michael Shulman, Tony Nourmand, eds. (Reel Art Press). Magnum photographer Burt Glinn was in Havana by January 1, 1959, the day after hearing that dictator Fulgencio Batista had fled. In iconic photos, Glinn captured the Revolution as it unfolded. "I could get up as close as I wanted," he reported. "I think that what you've got to do is discover the essential truth of the situation, and have a point of view about it." His dramatic images convey the revolutionary idealism, mayhem, and excitement of this historic moment. Publication date: November 12.

Havana Hardball: Spring Training, Jackie Robinson, and the Cuban League. César Brioso. (University Press of Florida). Veteran sports journalist César Brioso takes an in-depth look at a pivotal moment in baseball history. February 1947 marked the conclusion of the most memorable season in the history of the Cuban League, with a dramatic win by Almendares against rival Habana. As celebrations broke out across the island, the Brooklyn Dodgers began spring training on the island. One of their minor league players was Jackie Robinson, who was poised to make baseball history. To avoid harassment from white crowds in Florida during this critical preseason, the Dodgers relocated their spring training to Cuba, where black and white teammates had played side by side since 1900. At this time, Major League Baseball was also trying to bring the Cuban League under the control of organized baseball, while the Cubans fought to remain independent. Havana Hardball captures the excitement of the Cuban League’s greatest pennant race and the anticipation of the looming challenge to Major League Baseball’s color barrier. Publication date: September 22.


Matters of the Sea / Cosas del Mar: A Poem Commemorating a New Era in US-Cuba Relations. Richard Blanco. (University of Pittsburgh Press). Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco (b. 1968, Madrid) was selected to read a poem at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, the first Latino to be so honored. This summer, he was invited to write and read a poem during the historic reopening ceremony of the United States Embassy in Havana. Matters of the Sea / Cosas del Mar is a commemorative bilingual chapbook that reproduces the poem. “Matters of the Sea is one of the most emotionally complex and personal poems I’ve ever written,” Blanco has said, “invested with all my love for the people of two countries that are part of my very being. . . .  I’m elated by the power of poetry to . . . be a catalyst for change and understanding by reaching deep into our emotion selves and connecting us to our shared humanity.” Publication date: September 30.