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TO JUNE 16
One of the standouts of the Fraser Gallery Bethesda’s 2003 group show “De Aquí y de Allá” (From Here and From There), Cuban artist Sandra Ramos has returned for a solo exhibit at Fraser’s Georgetown outpost. Or, to be exact, her work has, even if she hasn’t. The U.S. State Department blocked Ramos from entering the United States to visit the show, even though she’s attended numerous arts-related events here in the past. The irony of the United States—rather than Fidel Castro’s dictatorship—restraining Ramos’ freedom is eerily fitting for an artist whose ideology resists pigeonholing. Ramos’ allegorical art, drawn in a brightly colored, faux-primitive style, is sharply critical of the regime that has ruled her homeland for more than four decades, with many pieces using rowboats or bottles bobbing on the sea to suggest (literally) refugees and (more figuratively) Castro-era drift. (Bottle: Island is pictured.) Yet Ramos’ works also express a wariness about the Yanqui embrace—most clearly in El Fin de la Inocencia, in which the recurring stand-in for Ramos, a long-haired young girl, massages the cartoonishly hairy chest of a man whose head is that of George Washington’s on the one-dollar bill. (The downtrodden peasant looking in on the scene seems none too pleased.) Two pieces in the exhibition especially cut to the core of Ramos’ identity: In one, her recumbent figure recoils from the blinding lights of a Times Square–style American cityscape; a figure in the second gazes out of an airliner, contentedly watching the warm flicker of Cuba’s lights below. Despite numerous opportunities to defect, Ramos has remained a resident of Cuba; these thoughtful, measured works represent the fruit of that tension. The show is on view from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays, to Wednesday, June 16, at the Fraser Gallery, 1054 31st St. NW. Free. (202) 298-6450. (Louis Jacobson)