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Juan Francisco Elso: Por América

Luis Camnitzer, Canales, 1980

Ricardo Brey, Luis Camnitzer, Melvin Edwards, and Lorraine O’Grady are included in the group exhibition Juan Francisco Elso: Por América organized by El Museo de Barrio and curated by Olga Viso travels to the Pheonix Art Museum.

The institutions press release follows:

Organized by El Museo del Barrio, Juan Francisco Elso: Por América investigates the brief yet significant career of the late Cuban artist Juan Francisco Elso (1956–1988), who emerged as a visual artist in the late 1970s and early 1980s before dying of leukemia at the age of 32. Elso, who was based in Havana, is associated with the first generation of artists born and educated in post-revolutionary Cuba. Por América is the first traveling survey of Elso’s work in the United States since the early 1990s, representing a rare opportunity for Arizona audiences to experience the artist’s dynamic and visceral creations.

Fashioned from natural, organic materials such as mud, clay, straw, twigs, bark, and earth, Elso’s sculptures and installations examine the complexities of contemporary Cuban, Caribbean, and Latin American identities, which draw influence from Indigenous traditions, Afro-Caribbean religious beliefs, and the traumas of colonial oppression. The artist’s limited production, including plans for several unrealized works, reveal a more expansive understanding of the Americas, free from continental division and conventional ideas of state and nationhood.

In addition to presenting work by the late artist, Juan Francisco Elso: Por América showcases 45 artworks by a group of 30 multigenerational artists active in the Caribbean and throughout North, South, and Central America. Organized into several interrelated, thematic sections, the exhibition explores the intersections and parallel affinities present in Elso’s art and works by artists such as José Bedia, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Albert Chong, Graciela Iturbide, Glenn Ligon, Rogelio López Marin (GORY), Ana Mendieta, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Gabriel Orozco, Marta María Pérez Bravo, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, and Reynier Leyva Novo, among others.