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El Museo del Barrio opens their two summer exhibitions showcasing a multitude of artists
Nari Ward, Swing, 2010. Shoe tips, car tire, shoe tongues, rope, 32 x 32 x 16 inches (tire) 81.3 x 81.3 x 40.6 cm rope length variable. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

NEW YORK, NY.- In conjunction with the annual Museum Mile Festival, El Museo del Barrio presents their two summer exhibitions: Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón and uptown: nasty women/bad hombres. These two exhibitions, on view through November 5th, present both local and international stories—while Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón represents the first ever U.S. retrospective of Cuban artist Belkis Ayon, uptown: nasty women/bad hombres presents a powerful group show of local artists living and working in uptown Manhattan.

Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón is a landmark retrospective, the first in the U.S. dedicated to the work of Belkis Ayón (1967–1999). Ayón was a Cuban visual artist who mined the founding myth of the Afro-Cuban fraternal society Abakuá to create an independent and powerful visual iconography. Ayón was known for her signature technique of collography, a printing process in which materials of various textures and absorbencies are collaged onto a cardboard matrix and then run through the press with paper. Her narratives, many of which were produced at very large scale by joining multiple printed sheets, are imbued with an air of mystery, in part due to her deliberately austere palette of shades and subtle tones of black, white, and grey. For a black Cuban woman, both her ascendency in the contemporary printmaking world and her investigation of a powerful all-male brotherhood were notable and bold. Nkame, a sweeping overview of her most fertile period of artistic creativity, covers Ayón's graphic production from 1986 until her untimely passing in 1999.

Belkis Ayón (1967-1999) was born in Havana, and became a professor of engraving at the San Alejandro Academy and at the Instituto Superior de Arte in 1993. In the same year, she participated in the XVI Venice Biennale, where she received her first international prize at the International Graphics Biennale in Maastricht, Holland, and had the largest solo exhibition of her work in Havana to date, Siempre vuelvo (I Always Return). The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles invited Belkis to participate in the Kwangju Biennial in South Korea in 1997. Subsequently, MOCA, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired her works for their collections. In 1998 Ayón was awarded a prize at the xii Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano y del Caribe in Puerto Rico. In March of 1998 she held her last solo exhibition, Desasosiego/Restlessness at the Couturier Gallery in Los Angeles.

In Cuba, Ayón was regarded as an "exponent of the cultural identity and roots of the nation." Her work, however, transcends local values. She created a discourse that railed against marginality, frustration, fear, censorship, violence, and impotence—one that instead promoted the quest for freedom. These were extremely sensitive topics given the severe political and economic crises that Cuba faced following the dissolution of Eastern European socialism in 1991.

As part of its participation in The Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University's first uptown triennial, El Museo del Barrio presents an exhibition of artists living or working in El Barrio, Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. El Museo's uptown: nasty women/bad hombres presents the work of artists engaging with the legacies of sexism, racism, homophobia, the power of the media, the state of health care and our natural environment, and violence in various ways. The artists explore these issues through poetry, symbolism, and metaphor or by exploring particular forms of artistic practice associated with rupture or bearing witness as a form of social protest. Some employ gendered or radical forms of art making for their purposes. Collage, documentary photography, poetic text, painting, needlepoint, textile work and video are all methods enlisted by these artists to create works that deal with various social issues. Artists included in the exhibition are: Elan Cadiz, Vladimir Cybil Charlier, Pepe Coronado, COCO144/Roberto Gualtieri, Jaime Davidovich, Carlos De Jesus, Rene De Los Santos, Francisco Donoso, FEEGZ/Carlos Jesús Martínez Dominguez, Sandra Fernández, Marquita Flowers, Reynaldo García Pantaleón, Alex Guerrero, Leslie Jiménez, Lauren Kelley, Rejin Leys, Stephanie Lindquist, Miguel Luciano, Luanda Lozano, Ivan Monforte, José Morales, Darío Oleaga, Jaime Permuth, Kenny Rivero, Moses Ros-Suarez, José Rodríguez, Aya Rodríguez-Izumi, Ruben Natal-San Miguel, Sable Elyse Smith, Rider Ureña, Regina Viqueira, and Nari Ward.

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