Chivo que rompe tambó . . . / The goat that breaks the tambour . . .

April 15 - May 12, 2007

Art Gallery | Jorge Perugorría

Video: Jorge Perugorria at the opening of his exhibit
April 15, 2007, Cuban Art Space of the Center for Cuban Studies, New York City.
Cuba's best-known actor is also a terrific painter!
Pictures of the opening

32 page catalog, paintings in color, can be ordered for $10/$8 CCS members,
plus $2 postage and handling

On April 15, the Cuban Art Space of the Center for Cuban Studies opened an exciting new exhibit of paintings by Cuba’s best-known actor, Jorge Perugorría, known here for his moving portrayal of the gay man in Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s “Strawberry and Chocolate.” That movie was nominated for Best Foreign Film in 1994 and brought Perugorría to the United States (Los Angeles) for the first time. Since that initial success, Pichi (the nickname by which he is known) has starred in dozens of films (including Alea's last movie, "Guantanamera"), in several countries, and has also directed. At the end of 2005 he made his third documentary with Ángel Alderete, “Santiago y La Virgen en La Fiesta del Fuego” (Santiago and the Virgin in the Fiesta of Fire), which served as the inspiration for the series of paintings being shown at the Cuban Art Space, “Chivo que rompe tambó . . .”

The title of the show comes from a phrase in a song by the great Bola de Nieve, sometimes called Cuba’s Louis Armstrong. Bola de Nieve died in the 1960s but his music is known to every Cuban. The song says “the goat that breaks the drum will pay with his skin,” since the heads of the tambours are made of animal skins. Bola’s song was a kind of folk song, singing of a city where spoiled little goats still ran around, breaking and entering. But goats are also an important part of the Cuban religion of Santería and many of Pichi’s images are abstractions of tambours and goats, music and santería, supports for his community. Pichi’s commentary on his artworks is this: “These works are a tribute to sacrifice, to that messianic part of daily life that is supported in my people’s spirituality, a tribute to the political religiosity that my generation and I have had to live. . . . They are a few fotogramas of that imperfect cinema that has been my life.”

The show consists of several large oils on canvas and more than 30 works on handmade paper. Some large canvases are what Pichi calls “fotogramas.” According to critic Caridad Blanco de la Cruz, “These are works that reinforce the narrative style he takes from cinema, as if they were story boards in which scenes develop to better understand the plot. . . . [the largest] is an erotic sequence, a meeting between the goat and the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre and the story of the moment when the goat offers its strength and vitality.” Jorge Perugorría will be in New York City for two events: the exhibit and the Havana Film Festival in New York (April 13-19) featuring several of his films. For information on his availability for interviews, call 212 242 0559 after April 6.

About Jorge Perugorría Rodríguez
Born August 13, 1965 in Wajay, a neighborhood in Boyeros, on the edge of Havana. At 11, he took painting classes at the local “casa de cultura” and took part in drawing contests at his school. In 1984 he started working as an actor in a school theater group where he was studying civil engineering, and won various acting prizes in student theater festivals. In 1985 he was chosen by Humberto Rodríguez, director of the important amateur group Olga Alonso to play Shakespearean roles, important to his education as an actor. In 1988 he started working professionally in the theater group Arte Popular Caribeño directed by Eugenio Hernández, one of Cuba’s best. The next year he became part of the Rita Montaner theater group, playing lead actor in several produc- tions, including “The Glass Menagerie” and “Tea and Sympathy,” part of a successful trilogy of U.S. plays, in 1990 In 1992 he helped found a theater group called “The Public,” which made its debut with Genet’s “The Maids,” in which Pichi played Clara. At the same time he was doing theater, he started making films for television and working in a few tv series. He also acted in several shorts done by students at the Film School in San Antonio de los Baños. His life as a film actor really began, of course, with “Strawberry and Chocolate,” in which he played Diego. He won numerous awards for that role, opening doors to international filmmaking. Since 2001, Pichi has taken part in many group exhibitions and had several one-man shows, the most recent, in 2006, in Madrid, Italy and India. In 2005, his exhibition “Labyrinth” was shown at the Galleria del Palazzo in Florence. Although his life as a painter is relatively new, he is excited by it, and says that “I’ve found in painting a freedom that I don’t have in film.”