Jan 292015
 

Revolution Plaza
Havana, Cuba

Camilo Cienfuegos by Eliecer Aquiar

On the Ministry of Ministry of Communications building is another line sculpture by Enrique Avila Gonzales.  This one is of a lesser known revolutionary hero, Camilo Cienfuegos, shown here with his signature cowboy hat.

The sculpture was erected in 2009. The words “Vas bien, Fidel” (You’re doing fine, Fidel) on the bottom right, refers to a reply given to Fidel at a January 8, 1959 victory rally. How am I doing? asked Castro You’re doing fine said Cienfuegos.

Camilo Cienfuegos disappeared while he was traveling in a small plane from Camagüey province that same year.

Jan 282015
 

Plaza de Revolucion
Havana, Cuba

Che Guevera in Havana, Cuba

Che Guevera in Havana, Cuba

Plaza de la Revolución  “Revolution Square” is one of the 13 largest outdoor plazas in the world. The square is notable as being where many political rallies take place and Fidel Castro and other political figures address Cubans. Fidel Castro has addressed more than a million Cubans on many important occasions, such as 1 May and 26 July each year.

This sculpture of Che Guevara is a single line replica of the famous Alberto Korda photograph of Che.  The sculptor on this was Cuban artist Enrique Avila Gonzales.  The words “Hasta la Victoria Sempre” (Onward forever to victory) are in Che’s handwriting.

“Of all the faces, the one which required the most work was that of Che. It happened to be a contest in which I participated by invitation, along with 15 other projects. My hesitation was deciding on the material, maybe ceramic, maybe concrete…

“I did many, many drawings and sketches of possible formats, until I saw my son tracing lines on a piece of paper. I was surprised by its tremendous economy and simplicity, and right away the lines came to me and I immediately saw Che’s character in them. All that remained was choosing the material, and at that point of inspiration, it couldn’t have been anything other than steel, like his mettle.

“Another thing was Korda’s photo. It is so artistically impeccable. It is perfectly suitable for any other visual art form. When I was chosen to do the project, I went right away to his house and told him: Look Korda, I’m going to do a sculpture of your photo.

“He started to laugh and we had a toast to its completion. Once it was finished and installed, in 1993, I took him to see it and said: Well, there you have your photo.”

There is almost 15 tons of steel in the piece, donated by the French government.

The Korda photo was takin on March 5, 1960, during a memorial service for victims of the Le Coubre freighter explosion.  It was not until 1967 that the photo passed into iconography with Kordas blessing.  Korda,originally a Cuban fashion photographer, who died in 2001 never received royalties from the photo and as a supporter of the revolution believed that spreading the image would help spread Guevara’s ideals.

Jan 282015
 

San Francisco Zoo
Sloat and The Great Highway
Lakeside

The Heavyweight

This hippopotamus is not only a wonderful sculpture but a favorite climbing creature in the San Francisco Zoo.  Heavyweight was sculpted by Dr. Burt Brent of Portola Valley.

According to a 2007 article in the Almanac:

Dr. Burt Brent, a plastic surgeon with an office in Woodside, has built his career and an international reputation on creating living ears for children born without ears or with deformed ears. He has pioneered a technique for building new ears out of the kid’s own rib cartilage; the ears actually grow as the child grows.

Over the last 30 years, Dr. Brent has provided real ears — and the dignity that goes with them — to more than 1,800 children from all over the world. In 2005 he received the Clinician of the Year Award for lifetime achievement from the American Association of Plastic Surgeons.

Officially, Dr. Brent is an associate professor at the Stanford Medical Center. He does six to eight operations a week as a staff surgeon at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View.

Dr. Burt Brent The Heavyweight sculpture

 

Heavyweight, was donated to the zoo by Dr. Brent.

San Francisco Bronze Scupture

Jan 202015
 

Lennon Park
Havana, Cuba

John Lennon in Cuba

In the John Lennon Park at 17th and 6th, is a sculpture of the former Beatles member , sculpted by Cuban artist José Villa Soberón.  On a marble tile at the foot of the bench there is an inscription: “Dirás que soy un soñador pero no soy el único” John Lennon, it is the Spanish translation of the English lyrics, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” from the song “Imagine”.

John Lennon's Imagine in Cuba

The sculpture of Lennon (like many statues with glasses around the world)  doesn’t always wear he’s signature round-lens glasses, which have been stolen, or vandalized, several times. However, during the day, a delightful older gentleman often sits next to the bench, and places the glasses on the statue when he sees interested people approach.

The statue was unveiled December 8th 2000, the 20th anniversary of Lennon’s murder.   There is a book about the statue by Cuban author Ernesto Juan Castellanos  John Lennon en La Habana with a little help from my friends,  about the ban that John Lennon and The Beatles suffered in Cuba during the 1960s and 1970s.

Why a statue in Havana after the ban of the Beatles?  “I share his dreams completely. I too am a dreamer who has seen his dreams turn into reality”. –Fidel Castro.  When Lennon was harassed by the US government in his later life, Cubans considered him a rebel, and therefore a victim, and therefore worthy of consideration.

John Lennon in Cuba

John Lennon in Cuba

 

Jan 202015
 

Prado Promenade
Cienfuegos, Cuba

Benny More Statue, Cienfuegos, Cuba

Benny Moré (Bartolomé Maximiliano Moré Gutiérrez, 24 August 1919 – 19 February 1963), or Beny, was a Cuban singer. He is often thought of as the greatest Cuban popular singer of all time. He was musical, and had a fluid tenor voice which he colored and phrased with great expressivity. Moré was a master of most genres of Cuban music, such as the son montuno, mambo, guaracha, and bolero. In particular, it is unusual for a singer to be equally proficient at both the fast rhythms (e.g. guaracha) and the slower rhythms, such as the bolero. Moré also formed and led the leading Cuban big band of the 1950s, until his death in 1963.

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The statue was created in 2004 by cuban artist José Ramón Villa Soberón.

Siberian studied at the Escuela Nacional de Arte (The National School of Art) in Havana, Cuba and the Academy of Plastic Arts in Prague. He is a professor at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. His sculptures, paintings, engravings, drawings and designs are held by the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana, and in 1996 he was one of the selected artist in the second Trienal Americana de Escultura in Argentina.

Jan 202015
 

7th Avenida
Havana, Cuba
Yasar Arafat Sculpture in Cuba

 

Havana, Cuba, Nov. 24 2012

In the words of its sculptor, Andres Gonzalez Gonzalez, the bust reveals “a kindhearted leader who fought hard for the freedom of his people.” The monument measures 1.95 meters.

The installation ceremony was presided over by Jose Ramon Balaguer, member of Cuba’s Communist Party Central Committee and head of the Foreign Affairs Department of the political organization. Also attending was the president of the Cuban Friendship Institute (ICAP) Kenia Serrano.

 

Jan 162015
 

Alcatraz Island
September 27, 2014 to April 26, 2015

Alcatrax

There are two audio exhibits in this exhibition.  The first can be found in the first floor, cell block A of the Cellhouse.   Inside each cell, you can stand, although, as you can see, stools are provided, while you listen to spoken words, poetry, and music by people who have been detained for the creative expression of their beliefs, as well as works made under conditions of incarceration.  There are 12 cells and each cell features a different recording. You can hear things as diverse as Tibetan singer Lolo, who has called for his people’s independence from China; the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot, opponents of Vladimir Putin’s government; and the Robben Island Singers, activists imprisoned during South Africa’s apartheid era.

All of the audios can be heard here.

The poetry or spoken words are in the language of the author so Martin Luther King was the one that I most understood, however, music is universal and those were where I found myself spending the most time.

DSC_5336

In the hospital area are two more audio installations. They are in side by side tiled chambers in the Hospital, that were once used for the isolation and observation of mentally ill inmates. They are a Tibetan Chant and the chants of the Eagle Dance of the Hopi. The Tibetan chant is a Buddhist ceremony for the goddess Palden Lhamo, protectress of Tibet; it was recorded at the Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala, India, a monastery historically associated with the Dalai Lama. The Hopi music comes from a traditional Eagle Dance invoking the bird’s healing powers. Hopi men were among the first prisoners of conscience on Alcatraz, held for refusing to send their children to government boarding schools in the late 19th century.   If you would like to get a sense of those two chants you can listen here.

Ai Weiwei blossom

What I came for, and was only slightly disappointed in, not because of the installation but because of the concept that you have to keep people an arms length away from art, was Blossom.

Blossom by Ai Weiwei

To me this is quintessential Ai Weiwei.  The curator tells you that: The work could be seen as symbolically offering comfort to the imprisoned, as one would send a bouquet to a hospitalized patient. The profusion of flowers rendered in a cool and brittle material could also be an ironic reference to China’s famous Hundred Flowers Campaign of 1956, a brief period of government tolerance for free expression that was immediately followed by a severe crackdown against dissent.

Ai Weiwei porcelain

I have always felt that Ai Weiwei has a strong connection with porcelain and that his creative juices seem to flow through this medium.

Blossom by Ai Weiwei

One of my favorite Ai Weiwei quotes.

“The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.”

Jan 152015
 

Alcatraz Island
September 27, 2014 to April 26 2015

Photo from the For-Site Foundation Website

Photo from the For-Site Foundation Website

You are not able to view this piece from any place other than the guards catwalk above the room, while peering through panes of glass, this is why I have had to take the photo from the website.  It was a very foggy day when I was there and pictures of this installation piece were almost impossible.

Tibetan cookery

The 8,000-pound sculpture is made of solar panels used to heat food in Tibet.  The sculpture resembles a giant bird’s wing.   The peering through the glass is another metaphor for imprisonment, and the concept of using Tibetan solar panels is a nod to Ai Weiwei’s statement that the entire country of Tibet is “imprisoned” by the Chinese.

 

Pots on Refraction by Ai weiweiNotice the pots setting on the panels ready for the next meal to be cooked.

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I encourage you to listen to the video produced for the exhibit to get a sense of how huge and difficult this piece was to construct.

Refraction by Ai weiwei

Jan 142015
 

Alcatraz Island
September 27, 2014 to April 26, 2015

Trace by Ai Weiwei

This is Trace.  The most ambitious, the most highly touted, the most written about, and yet, in my opinon, the one that least lived up to expectations.

Ai Wei Wei

This entire project is made of 1.2 MILLION LEGO blocks.

Ai WeiWei Lego

It took a long time for the committee that put this together to decide who should be in it. Ai Weiwei selected these individuals based on information provided by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, he has called them “the heroes of our time”.  The group also consisted of  independent research members of the artist’s studio and the For-Site Foundation.  The images of these people that were used were in the public domain.

Ai Weiwei has a large team of artists that work with him in China.  These artists pixelated the images and then built a mockup out of LEGOs.  Ai Weiwei had the final say on the image that was used in the exhibit.

The artist has never set foot on Alcatraz, so a team of over 80 volunteers assembled the 176 portraits. A blueprint for each portrait was created digitally and then split into four or more parts so that volunteers could work on them without revealing the final images ahead of the show.

ALCATRAZ exhibit

While very impressive, there was no in-depth guide book for one to walk around with, or to purchase, for that matter.  There were books along the edges explaining the lives of each person and why they were chosen, but when there are 176 portraits, and my knowledge of the incarcerated of the world so naive, I felt the need for a guide book.  YES, you can find them all  on-line here, but the lack of something to walk around with, contemplate and educate at the same time left me wanting.

Alcatraz Ai weiwei

Lolo

 

Lolo – China
Convicted of unspecified charges. Lolo is a well-known Tibetan singer. He was arrested shortly after the release of his 2012 album of songs calling for Tibetan independence. It is likely that he was charged with splittism, a catch-all offense that allows the Chinese authorities to punish ethnic minorities defending their rights. In 2013 he was sentenced to six years in prison.

 

The area is divided by world region and walking amongst always leaves you with an excellent view of each.

Shiva Nazar

Shiva Nazar Ahari

Shiva Nazar Ahari – Iran
Arrested on charges of waging war against God, propagation against the regime, actions against national security, and disrupting the public order. Ahari is a journalist and human rights activist and a founding member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, which campaigns against a wide range of human rights violations in Iran. In 2012 she began serving a four-year prison term.

Ai Weiwei

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Saif Zadeh

Mohammad Seifzadeh

 

Mohammad Seifzadeh – Iran
Charged with collusion and assembly with intent to disrupt internal security, propagation activities against the regime, and establishing the Center for Human Rights Defenders. Seifzadeh is a lawyer, former judge, and human rights activist. In October 2010 he was sentenced to nine years in prison and a 10-year ban from practicing law.

 

I have no reason for choosing the people I have highlighted, I just found their images photographically appealing.

Jan 132015
 

Alcatraz Island
September 27, 2014 to April 26, 2015

If you have read this blog often you will know that I am a huge Ai Weiwei fan.  I finally had the opportunity to visit the installation of his work on Alcatraz Island, and walked away as impressed as ever.  There is so much that has been written on this exhibit that I am going to simply show you a few photos with explanations and encourage you to catch it before it leaves.

Notice the "Twitter Birds" as eyes.  This is to represent Ai WeiWei's motto: "Don't retreat - ReTweet".

Notice the “Twitter Birds” as eyes. This is to represent Ai WeiWei’s motto: “Don’t retreat – ReTweet”.

The exhibit is found in many different areas, and I do not recommend attempting to do both the exhibit and a visit to see Alcatraz, you won’t have enough time to do them both adequately.

We began in The New Industries Building.  You are greeted with the mouth of a hand painted/paper dragon that is simply huge.

This portion is titled With Wind, and its placement is, like all the pieces in the exhibit, part of the message. This particular building housed “privileged” prisoners who were offered the opportunity to work as a reward for good behavior. Work offered an escape from boredom and isolation, and it could earn prisoners a shorter sentence.  Placing the dragon here shows the contracdition between freedom and restriction.

Everyone of Us is a Potential Convict - Ai Weiwei

Everyone of Us is a Potential Convict – Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei has said that for him, the dragon represents not imperial authority, but personal freedom: “everybody has this power.” The individual kites that make up the dragon’s body carry quotations from activists who have been imprisoned or exiled, including Nelson Mandela, Edward Snowden, and Ai Weiwei himself.

Privacy is a Function of Liberty - Edward Snowden

Privacy is a Function of Liberty – Edward Snowden

Around the room are kites decorated with stylized renderings of birds and flowers. These natural forms are meant to allude to a stark human reality.

Kites Ai Weiwei Alcatraz

It is also important to note that the birds are a reflection of the fact that Alcatraz Island is a bird sanctuary, and if you take the time to watch the video you will learn that the installation of the exhibit was during Cormorant mating season, making it all that much more difficult.

Other Kites in Ai Weiwei exhibit

 

Our March to Freedom is Irreversible - Nelson Mandela

Our March to Freedom is Irreversible – Nelson Mandela

Ai WeiWei Alcatraz

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Ai WeiWei on Alcatraz

 

The exhibit is a collaboration between For-Site, the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy.

 

For many the juxtaposition of Edward Snowden and Nelson Mandela can be jarring, this site is about Art, not politics, I will leave you to have those conversations elsewhere.