Rosy views of revolution


March 23, 2004|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

The Cuban Revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959 was a watershed event whose repercussions were felt throughout the Americas.

Photojournalist Burt Glinn was celebrating New Year's Eve at a party in New York when, on an inspired hunch, he hopped a plane for Havana and landed early the next day just as Castro's forces were triumphantly marching across the island toward the capital.

For the next nine days, Glinn photographed the rebels' progress and the ecstatic crowds that greeted them everywhere along their march.

As the Batista dictatorship collapsed, Glinn's camera documented what seemed a moment of giddy deliverance and promise for the country's long-suffering masses.

Now Glinn's historic photographs, most of which were never published at the time, are the subject of an expansive exhibition at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County's Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery.

Organized by Umbrage Editions, which also published the catalog for the show, Havana: The Revolutionary Moment presents some 70 of Glinn's classic images recording Castro's entry into Havana in January 1959 and his countrymen's jubilant welcome.

Glinn's photographs capture the obvious excitement of the event for ordinary Cubans and their affection for Castro's rebels, a rag-tag army that arrived in the capital by car, truck, tank, horseback, bicycle and on foot. Huge crowds assembled to hear Castro speak, and wherever he went, he and his entourage met throngs of admirers.

Many of the pictures show the youthful leader (Castro was only 32 at the time, too young to be elected president under the country's constitution) greeting schoolchildren, signing autographs and earnestly engaging in impromptu political discussions with groups of enthusiastic supporters.

Like the work of the Cuban photographers Alberto Korda and Raul Corrales, who also photographed the revolution from its earliest days (Korda and Corrales were shown at C. Grimaldis Gallery in 2000 and 2002), Glinn's black-and-white images suggest the tremendous hope Castro's takeover inspired but give little hint of the darker turn his movement would take.

But that was a different moment from the celebratory scenes depicted here. In light of subsequent events - the Bay of Pigs, the missile crisis - the pictures today seem both thrillingly romantic and touchingly naive.

The show runs through April 4. The Kuhn Library is on the campus of UMBC, 1000 Hilltop Circle in Catonsville. Hours are noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call 410-455-2270.

Island images

The sparsely populated islands of the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland are surely among the most severely beautiful landscapes on Earth.

Michela Caudill's contemplative photographs of the region's lakes, fields, peat bogs and huge, atmospheric skies (on view in the art gallery at Villa Julie College in Stevenson) have the luminous serenity of Dutch Old Masters landscapes.

Caudill's impeccably printed black-and-white images, photographed during visits to the islands over several years, are poetic evocations of a place and time far removed from contemporary urban clatter - a landscape of silence redolent of nature's transcendent powers to dwarf merely human concerns.

These pictures are a visual poetry of stillness, as lyrical and rhythmic as a Greek vase. Caudill achieves her effects through a masterful sense of form and delicate chiaroscuro shadings that capture the eye and touch the emotions even of viewers who are quite unaware of the artist's alchemy.

A related series of Arctic landscapes, taken from the deck of a coastal cruise ship, reveal a similar formal mastery and technical control over the nuances of light and shadow. A couple of quiet views of the Lakes at Homeland, near the artist's Baltimore residence, complete this magical exhibition.

The show runs through April 17, with an opening reception today, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. The gallery is on the Villa Julie campus, 1525 Greenspring Valley Road in Stevenson. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call 410-486-7000.

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