News Stories / Cuban exchange Alpizar and Tamayo and the Gato Bravo


By C.S Gillbert



If art is rendering order out of chaos, as one of the ancients said – possibly Aristotle in The Poetics, although Google has failed to produce the exact quotation — if art is rendering art of out chaos, there was a lot of art a-birthing last week at The Studios of Key West, the armory and its cottages both, and the Gato Building in preparation for “Una Raza* One Race.”




Things were also pretty hectic at  Stone Soup Gallery and Framing Studio, where canvases brought across the Straits of Florida from Cuba rolled in tubes were being stretched onto pre-ordered frames, some of which somehow were the wrong dimensions. It was busy as well as at the Oldest House and Garden Museum, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. All served as hosts for last weekend’s five-venue grand opening of Greene Street Gallery owner, proud Conch and curator Nance Frank’s miraculous cultural exchange.




In January Frank led a delegation of local official and art patrons to Havana, where an exhibition of famed Key West folk artist Mario Sanchez’s work opened at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes on Jan. 17 and runs through March 23. The weekend’s five-venue Key West openings are the other end of that cultural exchange, which has been a year, at least, in the planning. Cuba and the United States have not had official diplomatic, economic or cultural relations for over 50 years, since shortly after Communist Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista regime.





Nine artists, all famous and honored in their own land, have come to Key West for the festivities. Konk Life had the pleasure of meeting two of them.




Reuben Alpizar and Reinerio Tamayo are showing at the Gato Building, home of the Florida Keys Council of the Arts; they opened first, on Friday. At the Studio’s cottages on Ashe St. Wednesday, they were conferring with Liz Young, executive director of the host council. They are among the superstars of Cuban art and are actually so famous they are known by one name – rather like Madonna, Beyonce and their ilk.




Tamayo creates accessible, often humorous homages to iconic figures in art, film, athletics:  Here with his wife, Lizbet, they were preparing to transport to the Gato canvases such as Cy Young in the mode of  Kandinsky. The famed pitcher’s “arm movements went well with the decorative elements of Kandinsky, the artist’s explosion,” he said. Then there was a double-entendre caricature of Hemingway —  fishing, “The Old Man and he Marlin.”




Alpizar works somewhere between surrealism and a bone-sure realism, but his work, too, features  homages to famous artists and historical figures — all of whom, he said, have influenced his life. His paintings feature “windows” from which familiar faces (and rarely objects, as a dagger) peer, lean, protrude or can be seen. Quartets of canvases are exhibited as  passenger cars on a trrain, complete with locomotives. The wit, wisdom and precision of this work alone is worth a trip to the Gato.




Thanks to translators Wayne Garcia and Harriet Frank for their assistance.




Actually, Konk Life spend time partying with another successful Cuban artist, who has been represented locally by Stone Soup Gallery for many years, Eduardo Guerra. This writer has, in fact, collected some of his work. Totally by coincidence Stone Soup owner Melissa Trader scheduled Guerra and colleagues for a show opening during the Feb. 20 Walk on White without knowing the immense cultural exchange that would occur. Also apparently coincidentally, Cuban artist Juan Ego is on exhibit at the Lemonade Stand Gallery. Their presence simply enriches the broth.




Other openings over the weekend were: The Merger, an elegant trio creating shining, stainless steel sculptures on the grounds of the Hemingway House;  Xavier Cortada  in the gardens of The Oldest House; and the final opening at the Mel Fisher, featuring animations and The Bridge illumination from Havana to Miami by Sandra Ramos.




All Una Raza shows will run through March 15 except the Alpizar and Tomayo exhibit at the Gato, which closes March 6.


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