On view at NYU’s King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center | February 23-May 4, 2018
(Picture: Édouard Duval-Carrié | Queen Candace and The Three Kings)
Visionary Aponte: Art and Black Freedom brings together over a dozen contemporary artists working across a range of media to interpret an extraordinary—and now lost—historical artifact: a so-called “Book of Paintings” created by José Antonio Aponte, a nineteenth-century Afro-Cuban revolutionary. Authorities found the “Book of Paintings” in 1812 during the investigation into a major antislavery conspiracy. During his trial, Aponte was forced to describe every picture in his book. They portrayed lush landscapes and Biblical stories; Roman goddesses and Spanish kings; black men as warriors, emperors, and librarians; Rome and Ethiopia; Havana and the heavens. Shortly after testifying, Aponte was publicly executed, and his “Book of Paintings” disappeared.
Using Aponte’s trial testimony—which is all that is known to remain of the “Book of Paintings”—the artists of Visionary Aponte have reimagined Aponte’s book for our present. They invite us to think about the role of art in making social change and in mitigating the violence of colonialism and its archive.
The artists include: José Bedia (Miami), Leonardo Benzant (New York), Sanford Biggers (New York), Juan Roberto Diago (Havana), Édouard Duval-Carrié (Miami), Alexis Esquivel (Havana), Teresita Fernández (New York), Nina Angela Mercer (New York), Clara Morera (North Carolina), Glexis Novoa (Miami), Marielle Plaisir (Miami), Asser Saint-Val (Miami), Jean-Marcel Saint-Jacques (New Orleans), Renée Stout (Washington, D.C.). The exhibition also incorporates—and the art engages—scholarly research on Aponte and his world by NYU Professor Ada Ferrer, author of the prize-winning book Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution, and art historian Linda Rodríguez, curator of the digital humanities website Digital Aponte.
The show, which originally opened in Miami’s Little Haiti Cultural Center during Art Basel 2017, will be on view starting February 23, 2018 at New York University’s King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center.
Twice over the course of his trial Aponte testified that he had made his “Book of Paintings” to present to the King of Spain as a gift. The venue, then, is especially fitting.
Visionary Aponte is made possible by the generous support of the Provost’s Global Research Initiative; NYU’s Visual Initiatives Program, the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Knight Foundation, and the Green Family Foundation.
When to Visit
Hours: Monday-Friday 11am-7pm
Special Saturday Openings: 12-5pm on February 24, March 31, and April 28.