TAMPA — Many never before exhibited works from a contemporary Cuban artist are on display at the University of Tampa’s Scarfone/Hartley Gallery.
Pedro Pablo Oliva is an acclaimed artist residing in Cuba. Active since the 1960s, his work is a favorite among Florida collectors. Of more than 45 paintings, bronze sculptures and drawings on display in "Pedro Pablo Oliva’s Cuba: Histories," all belong to private collections and only a couple have been exhibited in America before. This is his first solo exhibition in the United States.
There’s already a buzz surrounding the exhibition, which opens Friday.
"There has been a lot of interest in the show," said Francesca Bacci, head curator and associate professor of art and design. "People are coming to see if they can (bring it to other galleries), local curators are coming, and a lot of people are coming from Miami. It’s a big deal."
Bacci was introduced to Oliva’s work through her colleague Jack King, who’d curated an exhibition of Cuban art that included a piece. Taken by Oliva’s colorful, surreal dreamscapes loaded with symbolism, Bacci contacted his curator in Cuba, who directed her to his collectors in Miami.
Oliva suffers from Parkinson’s disease, but remarkably, his trembling stops when he draws, paints and sculpts. One would never imagine that from the precise lines that he makes. Much of his work has to do with Cuba, from an entire series on Fidel Castro to the tunnels that were built in the 1990s during the Special Period in in Time of Peace.
Bacci recruited student Monique Aparicio to accompany her to Cuba to meet Oliva in August. They shot a documentary about his life, which will be debuted at the opening reception Friday evening. They also created a full color exhibition catalogue, a first for the gallery, which contains essays and every painting on display.
Oliva will be in attendance at the opening reception. He etched a copper plate especially for the show and will be live screen printing prints that will be for sale as a fundraiser. In addition to the paintings, his preparatory drawings will fill an entire room, along with never-before-seen sketches from his archive, under plexiglas on two tables.