Juan Francisco Elso:
Por América

October 27, 2022 – March 26, 2023

Curated by Olga Viso, guest curator, in collaboration with Susanna V. Temkin, El Museo curator

Juan Francisco Elso: Por América investigates the brief yet significant career of the late Cuban artist Juan Francisco Elso (1956-1988). Based in Havana, Elso was part of the first generation of artists born and educated in post-revolutionary Cuba, who gained international recognition in the early 1980’s.

Created mostly using natural, organic materials, his sculptural practice examines the complex forms of contemporary Cuban, Caribbean, and Latin American identities, as inflected by the cultural influences of Indigenous traditions, Afro-Caribbean religious beliefs, as well as the traumas of colonial oppression. Elso’s commitment to such histories – which relate to El Museo del Barrio’s own foundational ethos – presage current post- and decolonial perspectives. The exhibition examines such legacies and parallels by placing Elso’s prescient work alongside a multigenerational group of artists active in the Caribbean, and throughout North, South, and Central America.

Presented through a contextual rather than monographic approach, Juan Francisco Elso: Por América is organized into several, interrelated thematic sections that explore vital crosscurrents between Elso’s art and the creative output of both close colleagues and others who, despite having not known him, demonstrate parallel affinities. Featuring 45 works by more than 30 artists, the exhibition includes Belkis Ayón; José Bedia; Ricardo Brey; Tania Bruguera; María Magdalena Campos-Pons; Luis Camnitzer; Los Carpinteros (Alexandre Arrechea, Marco Castillo, and Dagoberto Rodriguez); Albert Chong; Papo Colo (Francisco Colón Quintero); Jimmie Durham; Melvin Edwards; Scherezade García; Silvia Gruner; Karlo Andrei Ibarra; Graciela Iturbide; Magali Lara; Kcho (Alexis Leyva Machado); Glenn Ligon; Rogelio López Marin (GORY); Ana Mendieta; Senga Nengudi; Lorraine O’Grady; Gabriel Orozco; Marta María Pérez Bravo; Gustavo Pérez-Monzón; Ángel Ramírez; Michael Richards; Alison Saar; Leandro Soto; Renée Stout; Gerardo Suter; and Ruben Torres Llorca, as well as new commissions by Tiona Nekkia McClodden and Reynier Leyva Novo.

Following its presentation at El Museo del Barrio, Juan Francisco Elso: Por América will travel to Phoenix Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami. The show is accompanied by a publication, co-published by El Museo del Barrio, which will offer the first comprehensive bilingual study dedicated to the artist (available early 2023).

El Museo del Barrio’s Fall 2022 exhibitions are made possible thanks to major support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Tony Bechara; Ella Fontanals-Cisneros; Celso Gonzalez-Falla; Elizabeth Redleaf; Craig Robins; Steven and Judy Shank, and John Thomson. Commissions are made possible by VIA Art Fund and the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. Supported in part with public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the NYC Council.

WORKS ON VIEW

JUAN FRANCISCO ELSO

Por América (José Martí), 1986. Wood, plaster, earth, pigment, synthetic hair, and glass eyes. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Photo: Ron Amstutz. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

MAGALI LARA

Femenino De la serie: El árbol del Cuerpo, 1993. Etching and aquatint. Artist’s Proof. Courtesy of the artist.

Photo: Estudio Magali Lara

LORRAINE O'GRADY

The Fir Palm, 1991/2012. Silver gelatin print (photomontage). Alexander Gray Gallery, New York.

Photo: Lorraine O’Grady

GLENN LIGON

Notes for a Poem on a Third World (chapter two), 2022. Neon and paint. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris.

Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano

JUAN FRANCISCO ELSO

Untitled from the series Tierra, maíz, y vida, 1982. Graphite on paper. Collection Orlando Justo, Scarsdale, New York.

RICARDO BREY

Cacao, 1983. Mixed media collage. Alexander Gray Gallery, New York.