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Juan Francisco Elso’s “Por América” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCA) is pleased to present Juan Francisco Elso: Por América. Open November 1, 2023, Elso’s show will also be celebrated during Miami Art Week with a public opening on Tuesday, December 5, followed by a curator-led walkthrough on Saturday, December 9.

On view through March 17, 2024

(L-R) Installation view of Juan Francisco Elso’s Corazón de America [Heart of America], and El Rostro de Dios [The Face of God],1987-88. Photo by Martin Seck. Courtesy of El Museo del Barrio.

Juan Francisco Elso: Por América is a captivating retrospective of the late Cuban artist’s career; part of the first generation of artists born and educated in post-revolutionary Cuba, Elso was a pioneer in Cuban art who created sculptures using natural materials. The artist gained international recognition in the mid-1980’s before dying of leukemia at the age of 32.

The exhibition gathers nearly the entirety of the late artist’s works in the largest survey of his career to date. As visitors experience these works in dialogue with that of generations of Cuban, Caribbean, and American artists, they will also witness the evolution of his practice, from his experimentation with new materials to incorporating spirituality, ritual, and decolonial ideals. A visceral representation of the artists’ journey throughout his short career, Por América spotlights Elso’s experimental process as a focal point.

“What has made Por América so special for me is seeing how Elso's poignant and personal art continues to resonate, even forty years later, across a vast range of audiences,” says co-curator Olga Viso. “Whether presented in New York, Phoenix, or Miami, where there are strikingly different cultural histories of migration and colonial legacies, the timeless, humanist concerns of Elso's art strike a powerful and memorable chord. Anyone who has had any kind of exile experience or experience of migration will appreciate the narratives that Elso's art unfolds."

Por América is co-organized by guest curator Olga Viso and Susanna V. Temkin, curator at El Museo del Barrio, the show’s organizing institution. At MOCA, the exhibition gathers more than 70 works by over 30 artists, including Glenn Ligon, Tania Bruguera, Belkis Ayón, with new commissions by Tiona Nekkia McClodden and Reynier Leyva Novo.

Assembling Elso’s works alongside work by Jamea Richmond-Edwards and Chris Friday in a group presentation, the exhibition investigates contemporary Cuban, Caribbean, and Latin American identities shaped by Indigenous traditions, Afro-Caribbean beliefs, and the impact of colonial oppression. This is illustrated throughout the show as Elso’s works are used as pillars, or centerpieces, to which generations of artists, students, and Elso’s peers respond. The result being a conversation between past and present, where ideas introduced by Elso are reflected back some 40 years later through a contemporary lens.

“We are excited to share this show in Miami where the political and spiritual dialogues between Elso’s works and that of the artists represented feel particularly resonant with the city’s diasporic communities.” said Susanna V. Temkin, curator at El Museo del Barrio.

Previously exhibited at El Museo del Barrio in New York and the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona, Por América is the first traveling survey of Elso’s work in the United States since the early 1990s, presenting a rare opportunity for MOCA’s audiences to experience these pieces.

Accompanying Elso’s show, a full-colored catalog will be published, championing the important scholarship related to the exhibition with new texts and essays by curators and scholars. Juan Francisco Elso: Essays on América, the first comprehensive bilingual study dedicated to the artist, is co-published by El Museo del Barrio and Miami-based [NAME] Publications, featuring texts by Jimmie Durham; Coco Fusco; Fernando Gómez; Orlando Hernández; Graciela Iturbide; Erica Moiah James; Magali Lara; Corina Matamoros; Cuauhtémoc Medina; Gean Moreno; Javier Téllez; Olga Viso; and Rachel Weiss.

Miami Art Week Programming and Schedule

MOCA will celebrate their fall exhibitions with a Miami Art Week reception on Tuesday, Dec. 5 to include a private VIP reception (invitation only) from 6–8 p.m., and open to the public from 8–10 p.m. The museum will also hold an Artist and Curator-led Exhibition Tour on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 11 a.m. The museum will also offer extended hours throughout the week. In MOCA’s continued efforts to include diverse voices and perspectives, the exhibitions will be accompanied by a robust series of educational and public programming.

The museum’s extended hours for Miami Art Week:

  • Saturday, Dec. 2: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

  • Sunday, Dec. 3: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

  • Monday, Dec. 4: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

  • Tuesday, Dec. 5: 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. *MIAMI ART WEEK RECEPTION 6 –8 p.m. (VIP), 8 –10 p.m. (Public) RSVP:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 6: 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

  • Thursday Dec. 7: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

  • Friday, Dec. 9: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

  • Saturday, Dec. 9: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Public Reception: $15 Earlybird rate (valid until 11:59pm on December 4), $20 on December 5 (online and at the door), $10 for seniors, students, and visitors with disabilities; and free for MOCA Members, City of North Miami residents and City of North Miami Employees.

More on the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami

MOCA North Miami presents contemporary art and its historical influences through exhibitions, educational programs, and collections. Inspired by its surrounding communities, MOCA connects diverse audiences and cultures by providing a welcoming place to encounter new ideas and voices and nurturing a lifelong love of the arts. MOCA developed from the Center of Contemporary Art which was inaugurated in 1981. The establishment of the permanent collection coincided with the institution’s move into their current building designed by Charles Gwathmey of GSNY in 1996.

Under the direction of Executive Director Chana Sheldon and a newly installed Board of Trustees, MOCA showcased My Name is Maryan curated by Alison Gingeras during Miami Art Week in 2021, which traveled to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in late 2022. An accompanying exhibition catalog highlighting key works will be published, along with other archival imagery and critical essays. The museum also premiered AFRICOBRA: Messages to the People during Art Basel Miami Beach in 2018. AFRICOBRA: Nation Time, the next chapter of the exhibition, was selected as an official Collateral Event of Biennale Arte 2019 in Venice, Italy. Other original exhibitions include: Didier William: Nou Kite Tout Sa Dèyè curated by Erica Moiah James, Ph.D (2022), Michael Richards: Are You Down? co-curated by Alex Fialho and Melissa Levin (2021), Raul de Nieves: Eternal Return and The Obsidian Heart curated by Risa Puleo (2020), and Alice Rahon: Poetic Invocations curated by Teresa Arcq (2019).


Juan Francisco Elso: Por América is organized by El Museo del Barrio and guest curated by Olga Viso, Selig Family Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs at Phoenix Art Museum and Senior Advisor for Global Partnerships in the Arts at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, in collaboration with Susanna V. Temkin, curator at El Museo del Barrio. The exhibition is made possible thanks to major support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Commissions are made possible by VIA Art Fund and the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. Its presentation at Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami is made possible with major support from Shirley and William M. Lehman, Jr. Additional support was provided by Craig Robins and Jackie Soffer, the Funding Arts Network, NV2A Group, and the Wege Foundation. We also thank The Jorge M. Perez Family Foundation for their generous support.

MOCA North Miami is generously funded by​ the North Miami Mayor and Council and the City of North Miami; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; and the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners. MOCA is sponsored in part by the State of Florida through the Division of Arts and Culture and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by the Fine & Greenwald Foundation and the Sol Taplin Charitable Foundation. Founding support for the MOCA Sustainability Fund provided by the Green Family Foundation Trust. We also thank our Board of Trustees, Curator’s Circle, and MOCA Members for their meaningful support.

By ML staff. Image courtesy of El Museo del Barrio


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