Cuban Artist Michel Mirabal Takes the Immigration Issue to the Venice Biennale

Mirabal goes to the Venice Biennale solo for the first time. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 8 February 2023 — On Tuesday, Cuban plastic artist Michel Mirabal presented his exhibition project at the National Museum of Havana, on a very current theme: “migrations in the world.” He will attend the next Venice Architecture Biennial with this same project.

Mirabal, known as the painter of hands and flags, will display six large installations, six works of painting and two sculptures, in the rooms and the outdoor space of the Loredan palace, an 18th-century building located in front of the Grand Canal of the Italian city of canals.

The project of the exhibition “Architecture of a System” is based on Cuban emigration from all over the world, the artist explained to EFE.

“In recent years due to wars, the displaced have become a very strong phenomenon, and I wanted to draw attention to that. I also want it to be as raw and real as possible, without half measures,” he said.

Mirabal (b. 1974), considered one of the most important current plastic artists in Cuba, is more famous outside the Island than inside, which he says is his source of artistic inspiration, especially its problems.

In this exhibition, which is accompanied by the art video “Exoduses, causes and consequences,” Mirabal addresses an issue that also concerns his country, where there is “a brutal exodus, more than half a million people who are not there, including many friends, family and my eldest daughter. So I experience it very closely,” he says.

His return to Venice — the city that hosted him with a scholarship between 1999 and 2002 — will be, from May 16 to July 23, the first time he exhibits a solo show at the biennial.

After the exhibit, Mirabal plans a four-year journey through museums, galleries and foundations of countries in Europe, China and Israel, and he also will bring this exhibition to the National Museum of Fine Arts of the Cuban capital, produced by the Spanish company Art Logistics.

Nelson Herrera Ysla, an experienced Cuban art critic, is the curator of this project, which he described as “very complex,” especially because of the requirements of the old Loredan palace, which “has interiors that cannot be touched. This makes it very difficult to place works there.”

He says that at the entrance of the building there will be a metal sculpture made from vehicle exhaust pipes, and in the interior there will be scarecrows, white sheets hanging on barbed wire. There will also be a work that addresses the constant Cuban migration with a group of passports incorporated into paintings by the artist.

Herrera Ysla said that the video art, made by Alejandro Pérez with a soundtrack by composer and pianist Frank Fernández, brings “the image in motion and music” to the exhibition.

About what he expects from this project, Mirabal tells EFE: “I do what I like to do. I’m happy with the result of my work and my colleagues.”

His presence in this Biennial “can be a breakthrough, because I never had the opportunity to be at an event like this. All artists would love to be in Venice, and I think it’s going to be epic,” he says.

Born into a family of artists, Mirabal is a graduate of the School of Design. He studied painting at the renowned Academy of San Alejandro and began painting 20 years ago.

He has participated in more than 50 personal and collective exhibitions in Argentina, Canada, Cuba, China, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy, Jamaica, Haiti, Mexico, Panama and Portugal.

His works integrate collections of important cultural institutions and private exhibitions, including the Rockefeller museums; those of Fine Arts of Medellín and Bogotá, in Colombia; the Martin Luther King and Afro-American foundations of New York, and the collections of Gabriel García Márquez, Mohamed Alí, Donald Trump, Danny Glover, Quincy Jones and Carlos Santana, among others.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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