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Crossing the waters 

Local residents bring Cuban art to Old Colorado City

click to enlarge Is that a watermelon laser light show? No, its Aguedo - Alonsos work, at the Cucuru - Gallery and Caf.
  • Is that a watermelon laser light show? No, its Aguedo Alonsos work, at the Cucuru Gallery and Caf.

Impassioned by their love of Cuban art and culture, Lindsey Crago and her husband, John, were determined to visit Cuba. So the Cragos got creative: They hired a lawyer and created a corporation to sell products to the Cuban government.

"There's this whole way through the U.S. government, for humanitarian reasons, to sell food and medicine to Cuba," Crago explains. Through their corporation, the Cragos have also been able to purchase the rights to show the work of certain Cuban artists in the United States.

Beginning Saturday, Nov. 18, the Cragos will display the work of Aguedo Alonso at the Cucuru Gallery and Caf in Old Colorado City. Most of the art Americans see from Cuba is decidedly anti-Castro. A good example is the recent film Before Night Falls, based on the book by Reinaldo Arenas, which tells the story of the author's imprisonment for homosexuality.

In a taped interview with Lindsey Crago the next-best thing to an interview with reporters, which Alonso does not give the artist describes a different perspective.

"I want to send to the American people and the Colorado people a message that I represent the Cuban socio- and political movement," says Alonso. "This is our country, and I am so tied to my land. I believe in Cuba. I believe in the [Cuban Revolution]."

Alonso's work should spur dialogue about the United States' half-century of tension with the communist island, encapsulated by a longstanding embargo on American travel there.

Whatever your stance, you'll likely find Alonso's art beautiful. The artist studied in Cuba during the Che Guevara and Fidel Castro revolt against the Batista establishment. He graduated from art school at the end of the revolution in 1958, when he was only 19 years old. Although he sometimes uses Pollock-like brush strokes, Alonso refuses to list any American artists as influences.

"I describe my style according [to what has] happened in Cuba, in our Caribbean nightmare, what happens here every day," he says. "I am like a witness."

John Crago describes Alonso's art as "abstract landscape," or "interpretive landscape with a political meaning." Alonso's art also speaks of his diligent work schedule. Every morning, the artist begins painting at daybreak to catch the morning sun. He lays his paintbrush to rest at 5 p.m.

If current news reports are accurate, Castro may be laid to rest soon as well. Whatever your politics, Castro is the pre-eminent symbol of modern Cuba, informing every aspect of the country's culture for nearly 50 years. The work of this established Cuban artist tells a story that spans this period, a story that will soon be over.

Capsule

Works by Aguedo Alonso and other Cuban artists

Cucuru Gallery and Caf, 2332 W. Colorado Ave.

Runs from Saturday, Nov. 18, to Dec. 18; opening reception, Nov. 18, 5-8 p.m.

For more information, call 520-9900 or e-mail cucuru@santuario.com.

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