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October 25 - November 30, 2002 at Couturier Gallery, West Hollywood

by Kathy Zimmerer

The work of the brash, young Cuban artist Esterio Segura has been exhibited in London and throughout Latin America, as well as the Havana Biennial in 1994 and 2000. This is his first solo exhibition on the West Coast. He continues to work in tableaux, assemblage and painting in an eerie series of works related to Cuban history and spirit. Earlier tableaux chronicle religious and social themes, particularly the Catholic religion--in a series of crucifixes and saints--and the Spanish conquest in El Conquistador. Segura stresses the themes of Cuban isolation in his tableaux via the repeating of objects such as airplanes or oversized megaphones. With travel prohibited on the island, various forms of transportation take on extraordinary importance, as in a work depicting a man lying asleep and dreaming of four stacked rows of large stretch black limousines, standing ready to take him away. In the tableau featured at the 2000 Biennial, one figure is caged and tries to shout through a huge megaphone, while a second figure opens his mouth and ropes of wire come out in an apt metaphor for Cuba’s struggle to establish communication with the outside modern world. In another installation, 0.53.7, wires extend from the figure’s hands, anchoring him to the island and a repressive existence.

His latest work in painting, sculpture and tableaux incorporates similar themes of isolation, Cuban history and the desire for flight. In Zeppelin, an isolated male figure is wrapped in an airship, ready to take off to parts unknown. His hands are held tightly to his side to fit the narrow space, and linear spirals add movement and impetus to the composition. This human projectile is moving forward, escaping the island’s pull.

Other assemblage, like Cage-Speaker, continue the theme of separation, as a large megaphone is captured in a birdcage. The restriction of free speech and the dramatic quelling of political parties are summed up in this simple work. The voices of the people in Cuba are silent in Castro’s tyrannical regime, and the imprisoned megaphone is a compelling symbol of that repression.

That Cuba is also frozen in time is addressed in J-reloj, where an old broken down clock is caged. Dating from the fifties, the eerie landscape of Cuba has aged but is not updated; the shabby beauty of old buildings and broken down cars find a poetic analogue in this clock that has not only stopped, but is encased in wire.

A cage full of handmade wooden airplanes continues the idea of flight in Jaola-Aviones (Cage-Airplanes). The fragile quality of the wood airplanes speaks to the desperate plight of Cuban refugees who try to flee to the United States in rickety boats and old airplanes, caged on their island, all willing to risk their lives to escape Castro.

The Cuban tourist industry is encapsulated in Jaula Camara, another one of the series of cage assemblages. The limited tourism of Cuba provides much needed revenue for the island, yet it is restricted, much like this jumble of cameras thrown together in a birdcage.

Crowded with fantastic ideas and strong images, Segura’s work resonates with the angst of the Cuban people. Yet it is resolved in such a poetic way that the resilient beauty and creativity of life on the island is made clear. His installations, sculpture and paintings represent a vivid mix of dreams and memories that echo the spirituality of his island home.

“Cage-Clock,” 2002, mixed
media, cage and clock.

“Cage-Cameras,” 2002, mixed
media, cage and megaphone.

“Cage-Airplanes,” 2002, mixed
media, cage and megaphone.

“Cage-Speaker,” 2002, mixed
media, cage and megaphone.

"Zeppelin," 2002, mixed media on paper, 128 x 60".