Cuban Art Talk

Triangulating Between Cuba, New England, and Africa in the Art of María Magdalena Campos-Pons

Guest Speaker: Dr Jennifer Josten
Date: Monday, February 22, 2021
Time: 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Registration: Click here to register for the art talk. The Zoom link for the virtual art talk will be sent to you prior to the event.

Sculpture: Tools of torture frequently used on enslaved African-Cubans.

About the Event:
The Cuba Partnership Team invites you to a virtual talk with Dr. Jennifer Josten about contemporary artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons. Campos-Pons is renowned for her artworks that combine installation, performance, photography, painting, and video. Born in Cuba in 1959, she was raised in a former slave barracks on a plantation in Matanzas before entering Cuba’s national art school system. She emigrated to Boston in 1991 during the economic crisis following the collapse of the Soviet Union, known as Cuba’s “Special Period”.

Dr. Josten’s talk will focus on Campos-Pons’s 2015 exhibition Alchemy of the Soul, Elixir for the Spirits at the Peabody Essex Museum, an institution founded by the East India Marine Society in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1799. She will discuss how Campos-Pons’s multi-part sculptural and sound installation metaphorically invoked the economic system known as the Triangular Trade, in which sugarcane was harvested by enslaved peoples of African descent in Cuba, other parts of the Caribbean, and southern U.S., transported to New England where it was distilled into rum, and shipped to Africa to be traded for enslaved peoples who were forcibly taken to the New World and sold, thus continuing a cycle of exploitation from which New Englanders continued to profit long after their direct participation in the slave trade ended.

Dr. Josten is interim chair and associate professor in the History of Art and Architecture Department at the University of Pittsburgh. Jennifer is a Des Moines native who grew up at Plymouth Church, sang in Matins Choir and graduated from Roosevelt High School. She also will speak about how she became interested in Cuba, and what it has meant to teach Cuban art in the era of BLM.

About the Speaker:
Jennifer Josten’s research charts the flow of artists, forms, and ideas among and between Latin America, Europe, and the United States since 1940. Her interests include the art and architecture of greater Mexico and Latin America; transatlantic and inter-American artist-based networks of the Cold War era; and the presence of the pre-Columbian past in modern and contemporary art and architecture.

Josten’s 2018 book Mathias Goeritz: Modernist Art and Architecture in Cold War Mexico examines the dramatic cultural and political transformations of the 1940s–1970s in and beyond Mexico through the lens of the polyvalent artistic and critical practice of Mexico-based German artist Mathias Goeritz (1915–1990). (Preview here on Google books.) She has collaborated on a number of exhibition projects, and has recently contributed essays to the catalogues for Art_Latin_America: Against the Survey (Davis Museum at Wellesley College, 2019), Pop América: 1965–1975 (Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, and McNay Art Museum, 2018), Lucio Fontana: Ambienti/Environments (Pirelli HangarBicocca, 2017), and Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915–1985 (LACMA, 2017), among others. In this video on LACMA’s Facebook page, she discusses a few of the artworks that were on view in Found in Translation.

Josten spent the 2019–20 academic year in residence at UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) as an Institute of American Cultures Visiting Scholar. While based in Los Angeles, she drew on the holdings of the CSRC and other area repositories and resources to advance her current book project, which examines regional exchange networks for graphic and environmental design that extended from post-revolutionary Cuba and Mexico to participants in the U.S.-based Chicano and Black Power movements during the long 1960s.

Read more about Josten here.


Contact Cuba Partnership Team member, Alicia Claypool, or 515-988-5831.

Photos from the “Memorial to the 1825 Slave Rebellion”, Matanzas, Cuba.