Sandra Ramos (1969 - )

Untitled (1996)

Chalcography on paper
height: 20cm
width: 25cm

Donated by Valerie Fraser 2000


Sandra Ramos began making prints in the early 1990s at a time when Cubans were experiencing a severe economic crisis. During those years, hundreds of thousands left the island, primarily for Miami. Known as the balseros, they often travelled on precarious, unstable rafts constructed from wood or rubber. The plight of the balseros and the general situation of the island in those years is the subject matter of Ramos' prints, in which metaphor and fact are blended to create an image - at once symbolic and realistic - of the contemporary situation in Cuba.

Central to this untitled print is the empty white strip horizontally bisecting the frame. This strip represents the Malecón, the concrete wall that separates the ocean from the city of Havana. Much more definitively than a natural barrier, this high, man-made wall functions as a stark visual reminder of the fact that most Cubans are unable to travel outside of the island. Instead, they stroll along the Malecón on hot evenings and spend hours sitting and looking out toward the sea. In this scene, Ramos captures the idea of the Malecón as a social space. We see Lewis Carroll's Alice escaping from the Wonderland that is Communist Cuba in a rickety fishing boat in the company of a wizened old man. Meanwhile, a cast of characters including Humpty Dumpty, a figure who could be a practitioner of Santería, a jinetera (a woman who offers sex or other goods to foreign tourists in exchange for money, gifts, and foreign visas), and a representation of the artist herself all watch from behind the Malecón, which separates Cuba from the rest of the world. With Untitled, as with her other graphic series from the early 1990s, Ramos employs a medium with a long tradition in Cuba, rather than the performance- and installation-based practices favoured by her contemporaries, in order to unflinchingly portray the harsh conditions and contradictions of life in post-utopian Cuba.

Jennifer Josten, 2008

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