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Raúl Martínez, "Rosas y Estrellas" [Roses and Stars], 1972, oil on canvas, Patricia & Howard Farber Collection, New York. © Archivo Raúl Martinez

After Fidel Castro successfully led the CUBAN revolution in 1959, Cuba was supposed to be the embodiment of Communist ideals, like a socialist Garden of Eden. However, the revolution's euphoria lost its momentum as Cubans settled into a grinding cycle of repression, scarcity and hardship under the Castro regime for nearly 60 years.

As enthusiasm faded into disillusionment, artists on the island found creative ways to express the world around them, as seen in the new exhibit, Adios Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950, making its U.S. debut at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from March 5–May 21.

More than 100 works created before, during and after the revolution are on display. Highlights includes Raul Martinez’s "9 Repeticiones del Fidel con Micrófono," a pop-style painting that shows nine repeated images of Fidel Castro at a microphone, and artist collective Los Carpinteros’s "Faro tumbado," a mixed-media work showing the landmark Cuban lighthouse toppled on its side. Houston art audiences will recognize Yoan Capote’s "Stress," a work owned by and previously shown by the MFAH, which includes two large concrete blocks poised to grind hundreds of human teeth.

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Raúl Martínez, "9 Repeticiones del Fidel con Micrófono" [9 Repetitions of Fidel with a Microphone], 1968, oil on canvas, Col. Wallace Campbell, Jamaica. © Archivo Raúl Martinez

Mari Carmen Ramírez, the Wortham curator of Latin American art at MFAH and director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas, acted as museum advisor for the groundbreaking exhibit.

Ramírez shares that Adios Utopia is a landmark project that has been years in the making, and one that may surprise viewers. “Cuban art [over the last 60 years] didn’t exist in a vacuum,” she shares. “Artists there knew what was going on in the world, in politics and in art.” 

Cuban artists were constrained by the regime in terms of subject and style, but slyly used irony and allegory to comment on the country’s political climate. So while you won’t see any “Fidel Sucks!” propaganda posters in the exhibit, if viewers take a closer look, they'll notice a number of works that cast an alternative light on life in Cuba.

March 5—May 21. $7.50–15; free for children and members. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. 713-639-7300. mfah.org 

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