‘Cuba Is’ Exhibit Shows Range of Country’s Sex, Glamour and Wealth

From the hard-partying children of the 1 percent to Miami's Chonga girls.

February 24, 2018 5:00 am
Helena and her friends wait for $1.00 pizza. (Courtesy Michael Christopher Brown)
Helena and her friends wait for $1.00 pizza. (Courtesy Michael Christopher Brown)

Brightly colored photos that show a depth of love for country populate the exhibit Cuba Is, now at the Annenberg Space for Photography.

‘Cuba Is’ exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography. (Anne Easton)

The display, which features over 120 photos, reveals the complexities of life both on and off the island. It’s an exploration of Cuba not easily accessed by foreigners, and sometimes not even by Cubans themselves.

The island nation seen in this exhibition goes beyond the folklore and offers new insight into its current reality.

Luis Gispert’s “Untitled (Dinner Girls).” (Annenberg Space for Photography)

Subjects of the exhibit range from defiant youth known as “frikis” to the hard-partying children of the 1%, the underground system of sharing digital content —“El paquete”—to Miami’s Chonga girls.

Cuba Is features work done on assignment by five photographers: Elliott Erwitt, Leysis Quesada, Raúl Cañibano, Tria Giovan and Michael Dweck.

Michael Dweck’s photographs. (Anne Easton)

An original documentary film, presented in a theater space in the heart of the exhibit, follows the photographers as they capture unseen images of life in Havana and beyond.

In addition to the photos and film, visitors can get a rare look into Cuban life via a virtual reality experience that delves into the country’s dynamic music scene, allowing guests to virtually stroll along the storied Malecón and watch residents celebrate with dance.

A portrait by Tria Giovan. (Anne Easton)

“I was photographing in the streets of Cuba, just wandering the streets sort of allowing the rhythm to carry me where it would,” said Webb in a lecture about his work. “I was going to call [the book] Esperando, which means ‘waiting,’ because [when I was there], there was a palpable sense of hoping and waiting. It seemed larger than the obvious things, like the end of U.S. embargo or the death of Castro.”

A photo from Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb’s ‘Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba.’ (Annenberg Space for Photography)
Alex Webb

He explained the eventual title of the book, saying, “Violet Isle” is a little-known paraphrase used to describe Cuba and it’s rich color-scape.”

Delving a little more into the thought-process he and his wife used to bring their work to life, Webb revealed, “When we put together a photographic book we think of music – a big book, that’s a symphony, a little book is a sonata. This book is a true duet.”

Included in the exhibit is the Doña Dulce café, an immersive Havana-inspired space that temporarily transports visitors to the Caribbean island nation with a taste of authentic Cuban delights.

The Doña Dulce café. (Photo by Anne Easton.)

Additionally, in the Annenberg Space for Photography’s Skylight Studios, located just across a grassy knoll, an exhibit entitled Resolviendo, which is an interactive installation revealing the creative drive of the Cuban people, is available for viewing.

A piece from the ‘Cuba Is’ exhibit. (Anne Easton)

The ‘Cuba Is’ exhibit runs through Sunday, March 4th at The Annenberg Space for Photography. Entry is free. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday: 11am – 6pm. Closed on Monday and Tuesday.


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