April 22th, 2024

Lia Galletti Gifts Charming Slice of Exile Art History to Museum of Contemporary Art of the America

By MoCA-Americas Team

In the early 1990s, HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death among individuals aged 25 to 44. Globally, beyond fundraising for research and development of new therapies, initiatives were launched to enhance awareness and education about HIV/AIDS, hold educational events for disease prevention, and support countless actions to assist those afflicted. Specifically, in 1992, the VIII International AIDS Conference took place in Amsterdam, Netherlands, marking the introduction of the first combined pharmacological therapies; British actor Ian McKellen funded the HIV/AIDS center at the Royal Free Hospital in London, naming it in honor of Ian Charleson. That same year witnessed the deaths of activist Ron Woodroof, who established a buyers' club for medication access in Dallas (depicted in the film "Dallas Buyers Club"), Australian singer Peter Allen, Filipino activist Dolzura Cortez, Russian writer Isaac Asimov at age 72, and American actors Robert Reed, Denholm Elliott, and Anthony Perkins.

Here in Miami, Catholic Charities opened Genesis House at the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1988, at a time when most people feared the disease and shunned those affected. Genesis House was located in the upscale neighborhood of Coconut Grove, on the grounds of HCA Florida Mercy Hospital, and closed in the early 2000s. A central figure at Genesis House was Sister Edita Rojo, of the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri and a physician, whose ministry left a lasting impact. Sister Edita Rojo contributed for many years to the Archdiocese of Miami through her work with Cuban refugees at the Centro Hispano Católico.

In the early 1990s, Cuban artist Julio Hernández Rojo organized several events aimed at raising funds to support Genesis House. Born in Havana in 1937, Hernández Rojo was an active member of the anti-Castro Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil, participating in clandestine incursions to Cuba and spending over 15 years as a political prisoner. He began painting in prison and, upon arriving in the United States, participated in various exhibitions in Miami, becoming known for his colorful and optimistic landscapes. His work is part of the permanent collection of the Miami-Dade Public Libraries. He was a recipient of the CINTAS Fellowship for Visual Arts in 1979 and passed away in Miami in 1994.

Lia Galletti, in collaboration with Julio Hernández Rojo, organized "Genesis III," an event showcasing a portfolio of linocuts created by 30 Cuban artists. This was the third fundraising event for Genesis, held at the then Center for the Fine Arts in downtown Miami. Prior to this, Galletti had established her EGO Press, a virtual space functioning as a mobile workshop, with its stamp on all subsequent prints. EGO Press occupied both a room in her parents' house and the back seat of her old Ford Fairmont. Galletti personally delivered the linoleum blocks to each of the 30 participating artists and hand-printed the proofs without proper press equipment. Each linocut measured 2 x 2 inches, using single-color ink. The artists participating included Orlando Cabañas, Arcadio Cancio, Marianela Centeno, Alina Cruz, Meme Ferré, Rafael Fornés, Nelson Franco, Agustín Gainza, Gay García, Florencio Gelabert, Lidia Godoi, Julio Hernández Rojo, Josignacio, José Iraola, Frank León, Toni López, Gloria Lorenzo, Nunzo Mainiere, Luis Marín, Gilberto Marino, Gabriella Meszaros, Moreno-Peñalver, Juan Navarrete, Miguel Ordoqui, Jesús Pascual, Jesse Ríos, Robie, Gilberto Ruiz, and, of course, Lia Galletti herself.

The final edition of 150 folders was ultimately printed using screen printing techniques. The fate of the entire edition remains uncertain. Galletti retained about thirty. No one knows exactly how many disappeared during its presentation. The rest were delivered shortly thereafter to Julio Hernández, who passed away one or two years later.

Lia Galletti has generously donated the copies she kept for over thirty years to the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Americas. She also left behind some linoleum blocks, signed promotional posters by the artists, and some souvenirs. What she leaves most importantly are traces of this wonderful story, one among many that form the history of art and artists from the Cuban exile, their migration, and their art of resistance.

The museum will soon host an open discussion with Lia Galletti, where the audience will have the opportunity to hear directly from the artist about the intricate details of this captivating event that took place in Miami in the early 90s. Many of the artists who participated in Genesis, Volume I, are no longer with us. Others reside in different states but will reunite once more—in some way—to contribute to the challenging and stimulating history of Cuban art produced in South Florida after the 1980s.

Lia Galletti was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1943 and is an established painter and printmaker, known for her work in abstract expressionism. She moved to New York City in 1960 at the age of 17, where she completed her education and began to paint and exhibit in Greenwich Village and other venues along the East Coast. During the 70s and 80s, she worked in advertising agencies in New York and Miami, specializing as a freelance artist in architectural renderings in pen and ink and watercolor. In 1986-1987, she studied printmaking at the Metropolitan Museum Printmaking Workshop in Coral Gables, FL. Since then, Galletti has continued painting, developing her own style and technique. Lia exhibited her work and received an award at The Boston Printmakers, at the Brockton Art Museum, Boston, MA (1988). Her work is also part of the collection at the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, where she participated in the Ibero-American Biennial of Printmaking in San Juan, Puerto Rico (1987). Recently, she participated in the Tokyo International Mini Print Triennial at the Tama Art University Museum in Tokyo, Japan, the International Biennial Print Exhibit: 2020 ROC at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, the Guanlan International Print Biennial China 2017, 2019, 2021 at the China Print Museum in Guanlan, Shenzhen, China, and the 4th Geoje International Art Festival at the

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