May 2012        

Irish artist supports Cuban Five in London art exhibition


The exhibition “Beyond the Frame: Contemporary Cuban Art” opened at Gallery 27 in London on 23 April, featuring works by top Cuban painters. It also includes among the display a print donated by the leading Dublin artist Robert Ballagh and other non-Cuban artists.
     As well as a major presentation and sale of Cuban art, Beyond the Frame brings together leading lights from the contemporary visual arts scene in Cuba with other internationally recognised artists, united in a common cause.
     The exhibition aims to increase awareness of the Cuban Five, five Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the United States for thirteen years, and to raise funds for the British campaign for justice.
     As a patron of the Free the Cuban Five Campaign in Ireland, Ballagh is familiar with the case. Selecting a work titled That Little Tent of Blue (1989) to contribute, he explains: “I chose this image for the Beyond the Frame project because of the parallels between the miscarriages of justice suffered by certain groups of Irish people living in Britain in the 1970s and the continuing injustice now being carried out against the five Cuban men imprisoned in the United States.
     “This piece was originally done for the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas, dedicated to the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.”

     The five Cuban men—Fernando González, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, René González, and Gerardo Hernández—were arrested in the United States in 1998 and accused of “conspiracy to commit espionage.” After a lengthy and flawed trial in Miami, the Five were unjustly convicted and sentenced to long prison terms, three of them for life.
     Although René González was recently released, he has been forced to remain in the United States, away from his family, to serve three years’ probation. He has recently returned to Miami after a two-week visit to see his gravely ill brother, Roberto, in Havana.
     Beyond the Frame will feature twenty-six Cuban and twenty other artists. Central to the exhibition will be a display of work by two of the Cuban Five, Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo Hernández, both of whom have taken up art while in prison.
■ Beyond the Frame: Contemporary Cuban Art is open for viewing and sales at Gallery 27, Cork Street, London W1, 23–28 April, and at the Lighthouse, Glasgow, 7–13 May.

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