The latest show at The Annenberg Space for Photography offers a fascinating up-to-the-minute glimpse of life in Cuba and is one of the best shows of this fall’s Pacific Standard Time LA/LA. Cuba Is illustrates many facets of life in a country that we, as Americans, know little of beyond a mythology that is still front and center in our imaginations. For this reason alone, the show is a revelation. But it is so much more.
Cuba Is uses photography to show what life on the island is like today. Key to understanding the material is a short documentary about the how five of the photographers pursued their subjects. A second exhibit about contemporary activists and thought-leaders in the country, at nearby Skylight Studios, allows visitors a glimpse of life in Cuba right now – see how below. The only thing more informative would be a trip to the island, but even a tour around might not offer the variety of experiences and personalities offered by Cuba Is.
The show begins in the past, with extraordinary images from beloved classic black and white photographer Elliott Erwitt, who shot in Cuba in 1964, as a guest of Fidel Castro. Erwitt’s work is elegant and timeless and provides a perfect first step into this survey. So much of what he captured in the 60s is still alive in Cuba – the faces, the poverty, the mood. Erwitt returned to Cuba in 2015 (fifty years later) to revisit the country and has visited the Annenberg Space for a lecture (see the website for details).
Contemporary photographer Raúl Cañibano was born in Cuba in 1961, about the time Erwitt first visited; his work bears homage to the classic structure of Erwitt’s images, but his intimate perspective as a native adds another layer of emotional resonance. Cañibano spends time with country people – you can witness him working in a remote village in the film that accompanies the exhibit (which is excellent) and through immersion and empathy with that community, produces remarkable images. He is also an accomplished documentary photographer whose ongoing work is worth a look.
Viewers are brought into the present day with selections from contemporary photographers – Michael Dweck chronicles the lives of the fabulously wealthy in today’s Cuba – with images that will feel familiar to Angelenos.
Other photographers depict the country’s various quirks and obsessions – Carolina Sandretto makes lovely architectural photographs of lovely movie theaters around the island. Cubans, apparently, are fascinated by our US cinema.
Don’t miss the film about the photographers because it offers much about the country’s current state.
And a bakery and nightclub set complete the immersive experience – you can order a snack from one of LA’s excellent Cuban bakeries, and sit in a nightclub and look through VR glasses to learn more about life in this exotic locale.
After having a treat from Porto’s, stroll across the Century City Plaza to visit Skylight Studios, where you can put your head inside a dome and listen to street sounds from Habana. There is limited Internet access in Cuba, so the parks are where folks gather and talk about politics, and this show attempts to share the current political mood, including samples of street publications.
Family Fun Weekend SATURDAY AND SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14 AND 15 / 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Bring the family and help us celebrate Cuba Is with a Family Fun Weekend! Join us for two days of Cuban percussion and dance with Omo Ache, singing with Sandra Sandia, group art activities, story-time hosted by Books and Cookies, face-painting by Rainbow Painted Smiles, interactive Latin musical and dance performances, a cotton-candy cart, and bubbles!
This is a great book to buy for a photography lover for the holidays. And.. for a little fun, here is Elliott Erwitt talking about some photos he took of dogs. He’s an old man and his humor is sublime.
Annenberg Space for Photography // 2000 Avenue of the Stars // Los Angeles, CA 90067
Open: Wed – Sun: 11am – 6pm // Mon – Tue: Closed // Admission is FREE