Erica Moiah James’s article “Juan Francisco Elso: La luz de las cosas / The Light of Things” will focus on the late Cuban artist Juan Francisco Elso, who was part of a group of young artists that redirected the path of contemporary Cuban art in the 1980s with the exhibition Volumen I. Like his friends Ricardo Brey, José Bedia and Ana Mendieta, there is a continuity between Elso’s religious beliefs and his conceptual practice. James will explore the way Elso’s work resonates with, and departs from, that of Cuban artists—such as Bedía, Manuel Mendivé and Belkis Ayón—who also drew from African-derived Cuban religious and social practices to generate meaning in their work. Examining the conceptual and narrative capacity of Elso’s materials, notions of decay, and the temporal limits of being in his work, James will complicate Elso’s connection to Santeria, not by providing readings based on race, but by thinking through the ways Santareia is reimagined and redeployed in Elso’s sculptural work as a conceptual beginning.

Erica Moiah James is an art historian, a curator and Assistant Professor at The University of Miami. Before she began teaching, James was the founding director for the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, a post she held for eight years. Her research centers on modern and contemporary art of the Caribbean, African, and African American Diasporas. Recent publications include “Charles White’s J’Accuse! and The Limits of Universal Blackness” (AAAJ, 2016); “Every Nigger is a Star: Re-imaging Blackness from Post Civil Rights America to the Post-Independence Caribbean” (Black Camera, 2016); “Caribbean Art in Space and Time” (Barbados Museum, 2018); “Decolonizing Time: Nineteenth Century Haitian Portraiture and the Critique of Anachronism in Caribbean Art’ (NKA, 2019), and “The Black Sublime: René Peña’s Untitled” (Archangel, 2018; Small Axe, 2019). Her forthcoming book is titled After Caliban: Caribbean Art in the Global Imaginary. She was a 2019 fellow at University of Miami’s Humanities Center and she is a 2019-2022 Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Center, University of Johannesburg, South Africa.