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De Aqui y de Alla (From Here and From There)

Assembling an exhibit of works by more than a dozen Cuban and Cuban-exile artists forced the Fraser Gallery to walk a tightrope. Using a decade-old loophole in the U.S. embargo against Cuba, the gallery managed to spirit artworks out of Cuba—legally, and without having to play any more footsie than necessary with Castro’s art apparatchiks. The machinations were worth the effort, even if some of “De Aquí y de Allá (From Here and From There)”‘s motifs are to be expected. One is decay, represented by the streetside ruins and streetwalker in Elena Maza’s Jinetera (Cuban slang for “hooker”), and by the cracked-plaster textures of the human forms in Deborah Nofret Marrero’s digital prints. Another theme is repression, seen plainly in the shackles that pierce the dark voids of Jacqueline Zerquera Tejedor’s canvases and in painter Roberto Acosta Wong’s bleak political allegories. Other themes suggest a more fulfilling national heritage: the musical instruments rendered in etchings by Niurka Iñurrieta Rodriguez and in paintings by Armando Tejuca, and Santería, which undergirds the works of photographer Marta María Pérez Bravo and painters Andres Besse Montoya and Pedro Betancourt Montalvo. The exhibition’s standouts, though, are Aimee Garcia Marrero and Sandra Ramos. In Recuerdo I, a three-dimensional construction in lead, Garcia Marrero offers the chilling vision of a dull-metal jail door—complete with a pair of eyes peering in—that’s pockmarked with the bodies of babies that have been squashed on it like rotten tomatoes. Ramos (whose Quizás Deba Partirme en Dos (Maybe I Should Split in Two) is pictured), for her part, provides a bracing cocktail: punk-collage aesthetics, Crumb-like caricatures, silk-screen-style coloring, and Brechtian captions, creating works whose symbolism deftly encapsulates her deep ambivalence about life in modern Cuba. The show is on view from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Wednesday, Oct. 8, at the Fraser Gallery, 7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, Bethesda. Free. (301) 718-9651. (Louis Jacobson)