A Cuban Cubist

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Smoke Magazine Smoke Front

Summer 1998

1998-smokefrontarticleMiami artist Xavier Cortada proudly hosted the opening of his Cubaba exhibit in Miami this past spring. The son of Cuban immigrants, Cortada’s exhibit was geared towards the Latino populace in south Florida, but was not limited to that group. “Cuban, American, both, or neither,” says Cortada of his all-inclusive target audience. The two-week exhibit celebrated cultural diversity, and provided community members with the chance to network and socialize. Various civic, professional, and educational groups were represented at the exhibit, held at the prestigious Artcenter on Miami Beach. Growing up in Little Havana, Cortada identifies equally with Cuban and American cultures. “We’re seeing a new breed of citizens,” he says of Cuba’s recent contribution to American society. “What the Irish, Germans, and Italians did in previous generations, the Cubans are doing now. The show is geared towards anyone with a hyphen in their nationality, whether they’re Cuban-American, Italian-American or Jewish-American.” It was Cortada’s immersion in American culture that provided the name for his exhibit. As a student at the University of Miami, his surname was mangled by his fraternity brothers into “Cubaba,” and the pidgin-Cuban sobriquet stuck. Cortada went on to earn his law degree at UM, though his art muse precluded any future as a barrister. Now 33, Cortada describes his work as “an amalgamation of DeKooning and Picasso, with a lot of color thrown in.” Once the show closes, Cortada will start working on a mural that Nike has commissioned him to design for a new ‘Niketown’ complex in Miami. Unlink many of his art colleagues who eschew the marriage of commerce and art, Cortada is eager to spread his message via any available means. “I’ve taken my art all over the world, in a effort to reach as many as possible,” he comments, mentioning recent visits to the impoverished townships of South Africa and begrimed streets of Bolivia. “I never really bought into the ‘starving artist’ concept. Plus, with my girth, I can’t really pull it off.” Spoken like a true American.