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Belkis Ayon Offset Lithograph Fine Art Print

Belkis Ayon (1967-1999)

Ayon was a Cuban printmaker who specialized in the labor-intensive art of collagraphy.  The layman’s definition of this process is the artist creates a collage of materials on a rigid substrate, inks it, and transfers the image to a sheet of paper by pressing.  However, the range and variety of materials as well as the inking strategies are infinite.  The process is equally about subtracting as it is about adding: the artist may also carve or etch into the surface in areas.

Ayon was born in Havana and studied at the Instituto Superior de Arte de la Habana (ISA), and after graduation, joined the faculty there.  The primary theme in her work centers around the Afro-Cuban secret society of Abakuá, a male-only brotherhood with a complex structure of rituals and beliefs.  This culture began in Nigeria and was brought across the Atlantic to Haiti during the slave trade in the 19th century.  A well-known myth associated with the religion involves a girl, Princess Sikan, who captures an enchanted fish.  Sikan shows it to her father, who tells her she must never speak of it again, but Sikan does tell the leader of another tribe about it.  Her punishment for the betrayal was death.  Ayon symbolizes the imposed silence in her work by removing the mouths of the figures.  

Because the society of Abakua had created so few images of its mythology, Ayon was mostly free to interpret the imagery as she wished.  She then addressed real issues, such as censorship, violence, intolerance, exclusion, control mechanisms, and power structures through the lense of her cast of mythological characters.

Tragically, the artist suddenly took her own life at the age of 32.  Her first solo exhibition in Europe opened November 17th of this year in Spain.

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