Tony Japour Brings us a Taste of Cuba
Tucked away in Little Havana is jewel known as CubaOcho Art and Research Center. Having discovered this gallery about a two years ago, I was curious to find out more about the gallery and had a great opportunity to hear about the Ramos Collection from his wife and Executive Director, Yeney Fariñas Ramos.
GREAT MASTERS OF CUBAN ART - THE RAMOS COLLECTION
CubaOcho- Art & Research Center
1465 S.W. 8th St.
Miami, FL 33135
R.W. Norton Art Foundation
4747 Creswell Avenue
Shreveport, LA 71106-1899
Mr. & Mrs. Ramos in front of
R.W. Norton Art Foundation Gallery
Roberto & Yeney Ramos in front of
Antonio Sánchez Araujo, La rumba (The Rumba), 1937
Oil on canvas
78 x 113 IN
Image courtesy of CubaOcho Art & Research Center
Figuring prominently in the Norton Art Foundation museum exhibition is a work by Esteban Valderrama y Peña which commemorates one of the most important medical scientific discoveries of the twentieth century made by a Cuban doctor. Dr. Carlos J. Finlay (1833-1915) in 1881 demonstrated that the A. aegypti mosquito was the transmitting vector of a viral disease known as Yellow Fever rather than human-to-human contact. Yellow fever was the first virus shown to be transmitted by mosquitoes. Yellow Fever was eradicated from Havana and later in Central America which led to the successful effort to build the Panama Canal after previous attempts by the French were in vain due to high mortality rates from the disease. Using archetypical colonial elements, the painting, El trifuno de Finlay (Finlay’s Triumph) 1944, depicts Dr. Finlay explaining his hypothesis to members of the United States Army Yellow Fever Commission, including Dr. Walter Reed, after which the Walter Reed Army Institute is named. Ramos acquired the painting from a Spaniard who had worked in the Cuban Presidential Palace in 1959 and was ordered to remove and destroy the painting by Fidel Castro’s administration as it included Americans during a period of military occupation in 1901. Instead, the Spaniard escaped to Spain where he hid the painting until selling it to Roberto Ramos who subsequently had the painting restored.
Everyday life painting was the rage in the years of the republic and artist Oscar Garcia Rivera y Gutiérrez (1914-71) is well known for this colorful oil on canvases such as La Universidad (The University), 1954. One of his most beautiful canvases is a realist portrait Silvia, 1940 of his wife Silvia Fernández Arrojo (also an artist, see below) subsequently displayed in the United States National Museum in Washington, D.C. in 1947. While Garcia Rivera continued to paint after 1959 including such scenes from the Bay of Pigs, his works were considered unacceptable by the new government and censored. The artist found himself sentenced to forced labor while his and Silvia’s works disappeared from Cuba’s museums.
Silvia Fernández Arrojo (1918-1981) was a brilliant painter in her own right and appointed by her mentor Leopolodo Romañch Guillén as Assistant Chair of the Colorist Department at the prestigious San Alejandro Academy. Later, after his death, she became the Chair of the department. The Ramos’ have conducted a thorough research examination in the art of Fernández Arrojo and her husband Garcia Rivera finding the importance of their works at the end of the Cuban Republic in 1958. The CubaOcho Research Center contains many of the original documents and critiques of Fernández Arrojo’s works that were purchased from the artist’s sister. In Tras el cristal (Behing the Glass), 1947, the artist who was a portraitist, conveys the emotional thrill, excitement, and wistfulness, of three children looking into a storefront toyshop.
CubaOcho Art and Research Center is devoted to the promotion of the Cuban cultural arts, not only in the visual fine arts but also in music, dance, and readings.