MDC’s Cuban Legacy Gallery at the Freedom Tower Presents Cuban Streams: 1885 – 1965, An Installation by César Trasobares
Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Cuban Legacy Gallery at the Freedom Tower will present Cuban Streams: 1855 – 1965, a multi-media installation by the Miami artist César Trasobares. The installation features captivating and immersive video projections that highlight historical photographs of the island nation from the collection of Ramiro A. Fernández. Cuban Streams will inaugurate the newly renovated Cuban Legacy Gallery at the Freedom Tower from May 19, 2018 to May 19, 2019.
In 1980, Fernández began collecting photographs that chronicle more than 100 years of the visual heritage of Cuba. Trasobares has sequenced hundreds of these images to create videos that provide vivid evidence of a culture and people transitioning from colonial rule, evolving through decades of urban and social growth, and surviving momentous historical upheavals. Through early Daguerreotypes, cyanotypes, albumen prints, and later photographic processes, visitors may witness people’s daily lives, the evolution of manners and costumes, the richness of urban and rural architecture, times of war and of peace, and other compelling moments in the island nation’s history.
The installation opens with a selection of historical maps of Cuba that complement the photographs and correspond with them in date. Three published books about the Fernández collection are also displayed, providing a larger overview of the scope of the materials. A visitors’ journal encourages reflection and the recording of personal recollections and reactions. Visitors will enter a darkened room and encounter six large projections featuring more than 1,000 images, constantly changing in a silent rhythm. Ordered non-chronologically, the photographs create dynamic juxtapositions of places and people that appear to flicker and fade; this panorama of Cuban history may summon personal memories and subjective narratives.
Trasobares is an artist, writer, and curator based in South Florida. Working with various media and artistic approaches in his installations, he often engages social traditions and cultural concerns of the Cuban community in Miami. At the Pérez Art Museum Miami in 2015, he organized a retrospective of the painted ceramics of Carlos Alfonzo, including his large public murals.
Fernández was born in Havana to a family involved in the pharmaceutical industry. He left Cuba in 1960, settling first in Palm Beach County and then in New York, where he was a photography editor at Time Inc. for 25 years. He helped launch Entertainment Weekly and People en Español magazines, and worked at Sports Illustrated and People. A witness to the Cuban Revolution in his youth, Fernández’s consuming passion has been to build a photography collection to represent the Cuba he remembers. Today his collection numbers more than 8,000 items. His book, Cuba Then, a selection of these images, was expanded and re-released as a new edition in 2018.
The Cuban Legacy Gallery at the Freedom Tower honors the Cuban exile experience and provides a most appropriate site for this memorable collection of images because of the historic building’s significant role as “El Refugio,” a welcoming place for the early Cuban exile community during the 1960s. Tens of thousands of Cubans passed through this building when the federal government used it as a center to process, document, and provide medical and social services for the new arrivals.