A Wild Animal Cannot Be Caged: Cuban Photographer Exhibiting in The West Village


By Graeme Napier

Gustavo Pérez Fernández is a photographer, poet, filmmaker, and wide-ranging visual artist. He was born and grew up Camagüey, in central Cuba, a city founded in 1514 by the Spanish, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pérez Fernández grew up during the1960s and 1970s in Fidel Castro’s Cuba, a world marked by censorship and restrictions on freedom of expression.

Having recently relocated to Florida, he is now in a position to show his work more widely, and more fully, than in his native Cuba. His photography has been exhibited in Cuba, but now also in Italy, Belgium, and Portugal. His images have graced the book covers of many writers and have been included in numerous literature and art journals. His work has been profiled in the prestigious German journal of photography Schwarzweiss. Many of his photographs can also be found in private collections in the United States, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and Belgium. This is his first exhibition in New York: a photo-portrait of Cuba in 2005.

In July 2005 Jorge Sanguinetty, of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, wrote:

“Castro’s…regime developed not as an attempt to build a socialist society, but as a gigantic privatization process with one and only one owner: Castro himself…Under such conditions, the relevant analysis of the Cuban economy is to view it as a household with one decision maker…For Castro, the economy is a constraint, a necessary evil, and economic activity is nothing else but a residual of political decisions.”

This analysis has important implications for the future of Cuba, politically and economically. As the country has become little more than a single plantation, a transition towards a more complex society, for instance, with a market economy and a democratic form of government, can be expected to be more difficult perhaps than many of the other socialist transitions. That is why I believe and insist on the need to prepare for the future, especially by increasing the general level of understanding of the population about issues like this.

Pérez Fernández writes of his photo-portraiture of Cuba in 2005: “After circumstances detained me in another life for quite some time, I am able to share these images. They are part of the spirit of an era, of a country: Cuba, 2005. Each photo aspires to tell a story, like a short film. Twenty photographs marked by irony, tenderness, helplessness; always with the wish that they could provide company for hope. And within them, the passion of someone whose vision’s only claim, for years, was to search for that which he could not find. I am here. A wild animal cannot be caged. “

There will be a month-long exhibition of photography at Revelation Gallery (224 Waverly Place), the art gallery of St. John’s in the Village, the Episcopal Church on the corner of West 11th Street and Waverly Place. The exhibition is part of the church’s month-long Julio Cubano (Cuban July) which also includes Cuban musical and literary events co-curated by St. John’s and the Cuban Cultural Center of New York.

Pérez Fernández. Photo courtesy of Nick Roger.

The opening reception of the exhibition is from 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 5th. The art is exhibited indoors; refreshments will be served outdoors. Face coverings should be worn indoors. Please bring proof of full vaccination.

Register for the opening reception here:

Learn more about Gustavo on Instagram: @perezfernandezgustavo.

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