Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón (1967–1999)

Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón (1967–1999)

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI—January 18, 2018—Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is pleased to present Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón (1967–1999), with an opening reception taking place Thursday, January 25, from 6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. Join Havana, Cuba-based Curator Cristina Vives for introductory remarks during a Members-only Preview beginning at 5:00 p.m. Enjoy music linking sounds from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic by Manos de Mañana from the Traditional Music Society of Kansas City; complimentary food, beer, and wine courtesy of Kemper Museum’s Café Sebastienne; and cocktails sponsored by Tom’s Town Distilling Co. of Kansas City.

The exhibition will remain on view through April 29, 2018.

This landmark retrospective is the first in the United States dedicated to the work of Belkis Ayón—the late Cuban visual artist who mined the founding myth of the Afro-Cuban fraternal society, Abakuá, to create an independent and powerful visual iconography.

From the Curator’s Statement:

“Cuban artist Belkis Ayón (1967–1999) died at age thirty-two, leaving behind a body of work of considerable importance for the history of contemporary printmaking. Her death remains a painful mystery for the national and international art community that had witnessed with admiration her successful rise to the most demanding artistic circles of the 1990s. Sixteen years after her death, the artist’s estate presents art lovers and researchers the first retrospective exhibition of the artist in the United States—Nkame—which gathers a wide selection of her graphic production from 1986 to 1999.”

Ayón, who was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1967, became interested in the Abakuá and their mysterious traditions in 1985, while pursuing art in high school. She was primarily drawn to the figure of Sikán, who according to legend, originally discovered the magic of Abakuá by accidentally trapping a fish who subsequently spoke to her, sharing a secret knowledge – but since women were banned from knowing the organization’s deepest secrets, Sikán was sworn to secrecy. The princess, however, gave in to temptation and divulged this forbidden knowledge to her fiancée; as a result, her life was sacrificed. In Ayón’s works, Sikán is brought back to life, and the myth and mystery surrounding this figure is brought to light, transformed through Ayon’s exceptional collographic prints.

A distinguishing feature of Ayón’s artwork is her signature use of collography, a difficult and labor-intensive printmaking process whereby materials in a variety of textures and absorbencies are collaged onto a cardboard matrix, applied to a plate that is inked, and then run through a printing press.

“Belkis Ayon’s large-scale prints are captivating in story and technique. We have an opportunity, through her vision, to create a dialogue with mythology, history, culture, and geography while appreciating her printmaking virtuosity,” says Erin Dziedzic, director of curatorial affairs at Kemper Museum.

Last month, The New York Times named Nkame one of the best exhibitions of 2017:

Artnews has named it one of the top 10 from around the world:

Support for Kemper Museum is generously provided by members and donors. A complete list of Museum programs taking place in conjunction with Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón (1967–1999) can be found at kemperart.org. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is open 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., Tuesday–Wednesday; 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday; and 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. All exhibitions and public programs at Kemper Museum are free.

Image Credit:

Belkis Ayón, La cena (The Supper), 1988, collagraph in 6 parts, 54 1/4 x 117 1/4 inches © and courtesy Estate of Belkis Ayón

Kansas City’s renowned FREE contemporary art museum, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art opened in October 1994 and draws 100,000 visitors each year. The Museum boasts a rapidly growing Permanent Collection that uniquely bridges modern and contemporary works of art featuring artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Georgia O’Keeffe, Keltie Ferris, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Richard Mosse, and Ursula von Rydingsvard. Special exhibitions, installations, lectures, and workshops, as well as youth, teen, and family programs are regularly hosted at the Museum.

For high-resolution images, to arrange an interview with curator Cristina Vives (January 22-25), or to preview the exhibition (January 24-25) please contact:

Breeze Richardson, Director of Marketing and Communications 
brichardson@kemperart.org | 816-457-6132