The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents a singular, striking work by one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary Cuban art. This monumental steel sculpture depicts Fidel Castro, the dictator who dominated Cuban life and culture from the 1959 Revolution until his death in 2016. Immanence negotiates the conventions of monumental sculpture and representations of power in ways that are particularly relevant to contemporary political discourse in the United States.
Upon first encounter, the sculpture is physically imposing and, at 10-feet tall, diminishes the viewer. Look closer, and your perception of Immanence changes, as the portrait of the Cuban leader becomes a collective image of Cuban citizens. The artist welded this sculpture from thousands of rusted door hinges acquired through trade with friends and acquaintances in Havana, exchanging new hinges to replace the old. The hinges speak to the impact of the U.S. embargo and a state-run economy on Cuba’s magnificent but crumbling architectural heritage and suggest the social and political forces that have exerted control over Cuba’s people for more than half a century.
At 40 years old, internationally acclaimed artist Yoan Capote invites us to explore our relationship to power. Based in Havana, Capote's conceptually layered works in sculpture, painting, installation, photography, and video create visual poetry linking inanimate objects to the intangible world of the mind. Immanence, one of Capote's most important works to date, was recently acquired by PEM's Present Tense Initiative and will be on view in PEM's iconic East India Marine Hall from September 2 through October 22, 2017.
"PEM's Present Tense Initiative engages leading creative agents of our time to cultivate innovative experiences inspired by the intersection of cultures, disciplines, and technologies," says Trevor Smith, PEM's Curator of the Present Tense. "Capote's Immanence re-enlivens traditional monumental sculpture through unexpected modes of construction and collaboration, raising questions around the source of political authority and how societally we reflect this in our artwork. Immanence, which resonates so deeply with PEM's institutional DNA and Present Tense Initiative, finds a fitting home here."