The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Monday, September 23, 2019

Fowler Museum presents first solo U.S. museum exhibition of Cuban artist Belkis Ayón
Belkis Ayón, Dejame salir (Let me Out!), 1998. Collograph. Collection of the Belkis Ayón Estate.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Fowler Museum at UCLA is the first museum in the United States to host a solo exhibition dedicated to the work of the late Cuban visual artist Belkis Ayón, whom during her short but fertile career, produced an extraordinary body of work central to the history of contemporary printmaking in Cuba.

“Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón” opened Oct. 2 and runs through Feb. 12, 2017. The exhibition presents 43 prints that encompass a wide range of the artist’s graphic production from 1984 until her untimely death in 1999. Ayón mined the founding narrative of the Afro-Cuban fraternal society called Abakuá to create an independent and powerful visual iconography. She is highly regarded for her signature technique of collography, a printing process in which a variety of materials of various textures and absorbencies are collaged onto a cardboard matrix and then run through the press. Her deliberately austere palette of subtle tones of black, white and gray add drama and mystery to her narratives, many of which were produced at very large scale by joining multiple printed sheets.

“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,” said Marla Berns, Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler Museum. Nkame follows a lineage of Fowler exhibitions that have explored artistic representations and evocations of African-inspired religions in the diaspora, such as Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou and Transcultural Pilgrim: Three Decades of Work by José Bedia.

“This is an important moment to spotlight the aesthetically stunning and poetically resonant prints of Belkis Ayón,” Berns continued, “especially with today’s heightened attention on Cuba and Cuban culture, and the historic reopening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.”

Nkame is organized by the Belkis Ayón Estate and Dr. Katia Ayón with the Fowler Museum and is guest curated by Cristina Vives, an independent curator and art critic based in Havana. The exhibition is arranged into five sections that examine major themes and periods of Ayón’s artistic production.

The introductory section begins with one of Ayón’s most iconic prints, “La cena” (The Supper) from 1991, a work that encapsulates three defining features of the artist’s oeuvre. First, her choice of subject matter — the history, mythology, and iconography of Abakuá — was a direction she took in 1985 while still a student at the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts. This all-male Afro-Cuban brotherhood arrived in the western port cities of Cuba in the early 19th century, carried by enslaved Africans from the Cross River region of southeastern Nigeria. A brief synopsis of the founding myth of Abakuá begins with Sikán, a princess who inadvertently trapped a fish in a container she used to draw water from the river. The unexpected loud bellowing of the fish was the mystical “voice” of Abakuá, and Sikán was the first to hear it. Because women were not permitted this sacred knowledge, the local diviner swore Sikán to secrecy. Sikán, however, revealed her secret to her fiancé, and because of her indiscretion she was condemned to die.

In Ayón’s work however, Sikán remains alive, and her story and representation figure prominently. In “La cena,” which depicts an Abakuá initiation banquet with Sikán seated in the center, the artist reveals her syncretic approach. The work alludes to the Last Supper and the Christian apostles, but Ayón renders the event with women usurping the roles of men.

Second, “La cena” is also a superb example of the artist’s choice of collography as the technique for creating her narrative prints and intensifying their expressive potential. The exhibition includes Ayón’s complete matrix for “La cena,” which she rendered in six units to produce six printed sheets that were assembled together. The inclusion of the actual cardboard matrix allows visitors to see how Ayón developed her pioneering and labor-intensive process of “drawing” with unusual materials: chalk, varnish, acrylic, sandpaper, abrasives and different types of paper, using knives to obtain dark lines and scissors to cut the hundreds of patterns that she later glued to the surface of her cardboard matrixes. When they were inked and sent through a press, the artist achieved a range of forms, textures and tones. The third way the piece embodies Ayón’s approach is showing that after experimenting with color, she reduced her palette exclusively to white, black and gray.

Two sections of the exhibition focus on the artist’s early prints, including pieces that capture the role Sikán played in the Abakuá narrative. Sometimes seated in a frontal position on throne-like furniture, the stylized figure of Sikán appears magisterial with her wide-eyed defiant gaze and no mouth. Ayón wrote,“I see myself as Sikán, in a certain way an observer, an intermediary and a revealer… Sikán is a transgressor, and as such I see her, and I see myself.”

The exhibition also features later works. From 1991 to 1998, Ayón produced large-format prints ranging from six to eighteen printed sheets. These pieces allowed her scenes and characters to reach almost life-size.

The final work in the exhibition is the monumental “Resurrection,” referring to the moment an initiate is born into his new life as a member of the Abakuá secret society. Created in 1998, this complex print in nine sheets encapsulates the power of the artist’s oeuvre: it offers references to Christianity and to the emotional life of the artist, and it comments on women’s rights and gender equality. Nkame, a word synonymous with “greeting” and “praise” in the language of Abakuá, is a posthumous tribute to the artist as well as a sweeping overview of her artistic career.

Ayón was born in Havana on Jan. 23, 1967. Her first solo exhibition in Havana, “Propuesta a los veinte años,” which means Proposal at the Age of Twenty, took place in 1988. In 1993 she participated in the 16th Venice Biennale and received the international prize at the International Graphics Biennale in Maastricht, Holland. Ayón’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions and is in museum and private collections worldwide. The artist committed suicide in 1999 at the age of 32.

Today's News

October 4, 2016

Experts say painting bought for $25 in 1899 could be an original Raphael

Hauser & Wirth announces worldwide representation of Arshile Gorky Estate

Contemporary art market slows as Chinese buyers switch focus

Tornabuoni Art opens solo exhibition of works by Alighiero Boetti

New commission by French artist Philippe Parreno unveiled at Tate Modern

Writers' privacy row erupts as Italy's Ferrante unmasked

Almine Rech Gallery opens new gallery space in London with an exhibition by Jeff Koons.

Mossgreen announces auction of the Raphy Star Collection of Important Asian Art

Ann Linnemann and six new Danish talents exhibit at Lacoste Gallery in Concord

South London Gallery opens new permanent garden by Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco

Richard Saltoun Gallery presents works by founding member of the illustrious Ton Fan Group

Jessica Carlisle opens exhibition of renowned British artist Paul Feiler

Sotheby's sales of Modern and Contemporary Asian Art achieve US$89,532,371

Victoria Miro exhibits works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Aura Satz's first exhibition in New York on view at Fridman Gallery

First major UK exhibition of the Italian artist Rodolfo Aricò opens at Luxembourg & Dayan

French-born artist Henri Barande exhibits for the first time in the UK at the Saatchi Gallery

Exhibition by artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz opens at the Serpentine

Exhibition highlights the ICA’s rich heritage as a home for radical contemporary arts and culture

Fowler Museum presents first solo U.S. museum exhibition of Cuban artist Belkis Ayón

Garment District space for public art showcases paintings by artist Umberto Squarcia Jr.

"The Guardian Animals + other invisible beings" opens at Moretti Fine Art

Sotheby's Hong Kong Classical Chinese Paintings sale fetches HK$65.76 million

Major exhibition of works by Jannis Kounellis on view at White Cube

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Holocaust 'masterpiece' causes uproar at Venice film festival

2.- To be unveiled at Sotheby's: One of the greatest collections of Orientalist paintings ever assembled

3.- Bender Gallery features paintings by up and coming Chicago artist Michael Hedges

4.- Lévy Gorvy exhibits new and historic works by French master in his centenary year

5.- Artificial Intelligence as good as Mahler? Austrian orchestra performs symphony with twist

6.- Fascinating new exhibition explores enduring artistic bond between Scotland and Italy

7.- Exhibition explores the process of Japanese-style woodblock production

8.- Robert Frank, photographer of America's underbelly, dead at 94

9.- The truth behind the legend of patriot Paul Revere revealed in a new exhibition at New-York Historical Society

10.- Hitler bust found in cellar of French Senate

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful