Visual Arts

July 2, 2014

For July Fourth’s First Friday, the Late Show supports the Cuban Five’s bid for freedom

Many galleries in the Crossroads are celebrating July Fourth First Friday opening receptions. The Late Show will be selling posters to benefit the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five and will also feature portrait-based works by Kansas City artist Kevin McGraw. The Leedy-Voulkos Art Center has extended the run of its five shows from last month through July 5, and the art center will be open by appointment only for the rest of the month.

“It’s the Fourth of July,” Late Show owner Tom Deatherage says. “Let’s get political.”

Deatherage’s gallery will be selling posters on July’s First Friday to benefit the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five.

The Cuban Five were back in the news recently when supporters of the jailed Cuban intelligence officers demanded their release in a June 7 demonstration in front of the White House. Three of the five are still in jail.

Convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit espionage and other charges, the Cuban Five, also known as the Miami Five, have maintained that they were not spying on the U.S. government but were focused on plans and activities of counterrevolutionary Cuban-American organizations that could be harmful to Cuba.

The case has drawn international criticism from human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, who have questioned the fairness of the trial and sentencing.

Following their arrest in 1998, the five men spent 17 months in solitary confinement. Cuban Five member Antonio Guerrero recorded the experience in a series of watercolors, which have been reproduced as posters.

Guerrero created 15 images, accompanied by short texts, that zero in on the indignities of captivity — chains, shakedowns, cockroaches — and the strategies evolved to survive them.

The series begins with “The Welcome,” showing the prison cell’s meager contents — a folded bedcover and roll of toilet paper — and a strip of an orange prison uniform across one corner.

“Cubiette” is a depiction of five dice, ingeniously created out of bread and toothpaste. Other images show methods of communication, including waving toilet paper or a strip of fabric at the cell window to form letters of the alphabet.

The watercolors are reproduced in a 33-page catalog, “I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived,” featuring an introductory text about the Cuban Five, poems by Silvio Rodriguez and contributions from fellow Cuban Five prisoners Gerardo Hernandez and Ramon Labanino. It’s available for $7 at the Late Show.

An essay by Guerrero, who learned to draw while incarcerated in the U.S. penitentiary in Florence, Colo., explains the impetus behind the work: “All these images had one thing in common. They recalled the unjust, cruel treatment we received from the very first day of our detention.”

He adds, “Like the environment they depict, gray tones predominate in each painting.”

Deatherage got involved with the cause through two friends in Lincoln, Neb., who knew members of the Cuban Five.

“They told me about the show,” he said. “It interested me. I’ve always been a political animal.”

Concurrent with the display of framed posters of Guerrero’s watercolors, the Late Show is featuring drawings on old printing plates and photographic collages by Kansas City artist Kevin McGraw.

The exhibit is titled “News Room,” after the bar at 3740 Broadway that McGraw owned from 2000 to 2012.

In the early days, McGraw took photographs of the bar’s patrons, which form the basis of the works at the Late Show.

“After the sale of the News Room, I pulled about 100 of the photographic portraits I’d taken of customers down off the wall,” McGraw said. “I had them in my studio and thought, ‘I’ve gotta do something with these.’ I started doing drawings on old printing plates with ink and red wine based on the photo portraits.”

Later, McGraw said, “I set them aside and started cutting up the photographic portraits. I have an old paste-up waxer for newsprint, so I started putting the fragments together with cut-up images appropriated from magazines, and they took on a life of their own.”

The collage images at the Late Show are a one-off series of prints, he said, made by Bruce Bettinger from photographs taken by Tal Wilson.

“The original collages could be taken back apart, and I didn’t like the idea of people rearranging them later,” McGraw said. “They’re going to sit in my vault.

“They’re a part of me and a part of people who were there,” he added. “Most are dead and gone now. I’m a fan of history and documenting. Anything that was old, I just loved because it had a story, and these people had stories. Our tagline at the News Room was ‘What’s your story?’”

Blue Gallery

“Stephen Dinsmore: New Works”

When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.) through Aug. 4

Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment

Where: 118 Southwest Blvd.

Info: 816-527-0823

The Late Show

“The Cuban Five: I Will Die the Way I’ve Lived”

“Kevin McGraw: News Room”

When: Friday (reception 6-10 p.m.) through July 26

Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment

Where: 1600 Cherry St.

Info: 816-516-6749

Leedy-Voulkos Art Center

“Dialoghi dell’Arte: 2014-15 International Tour”

“Skin and Bones: Marcy Lally & Apryl McAnerney”

“Dominator: New Work by Skyler Bieberly”

“Travis Porter: Syncretized Patterns”

“Kristopher Clark: Sum Good, Sum Bad & Sum Ugly”

When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.). All shows extended to July 5.

Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. July 3-5; open by appointment only July 6-31.

Where: 2012 Baltimore Ave.

Info: 816-474-1919

Locust Factory KC

Locust Factory First Friday Art Fair

When: Friday night only, 6-9 p.m.

Where: 504 E. 18th St. (east end of the building)

Info: 816-716-5940

Main Street Gallery

“Jessica Wisneski: Graphite on Paper Drawings”

When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.) through July 27

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Sunday

Where: 1610 Main St. (upstairs at Anton’s Taproom)

Info: 816-210-6534

Vulpes Bastille

“Jillian Youngbird: 6 Inches of Progress”

When: Friday (reception 6-9 p.m.) through July 18

Hours: By appointment

Where: 1737 Locust St.

Info: 816-721-9776

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