Cuban artist Salvador González Escalona is known for his public art works, which have transformed the Callejón de Hamel, an area located in the working-class Havana neighborhood of Cayo Hueso, into an explosion of color, story-telling, community pride and inclusion.
Salvador, as he’s affectionately called in Cuba, began this work in 1990 when he created a living temple to the Orishas of Yoruba tradition – two years prior to the historic lifting of restrictions on public expressions of popular religiosity in Havana.
His work can be described as a mix of surrealism, cubism and abstract art. His practice immerses every facet, crevice, and bend of the neighborhood. It covers each corner of the winding streets in poetry, murals, sculpture, motion and spirituality, scaling four-plus stories of the surrounding apartment buildings. Popular local history and religious traditions are echoed in his creation, from the toques de tambores (drumbeats) and rumbas that are the soul of the neighborhood, to Abakuá initiation rituals, manifestations of spiritism, and the everyday practice of Santería and Palo Monte.
The colors, sounds, and living consecrated instruments of ancient Yoruba ritual, combined with the hybrid cultural identities of popular Afro-Cuban society, inspire Salvador’s multidimensional creation of poetic conviviality, as well as his intentional staging of popular memory, pedagogy, performance and play.
In partnership with Palmetto Luna Arts, Tapp’s Arts Center will host a piece of the magic as Salvador brings paintings, murals and community development. He will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, on his practice, his neighborhood and his experiences as an artist in Havana. A cash bar will be available, and light refreshments will be served.
If you go
“Through the Eyes of Salvador: Afro-Cuban Public Art”
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The exhibition is on display Thursday, Jan. 4, through Friday, Jan. 26.
WHERE: Tapp’s Arts Center, 1644 Main St.
WORTH NOTING: Salvador will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, during First Thursday on Main.