Outsider art with a Cuban perspective: paintings by Hudson Valley resident Corso, at the Palmer Gallery, March 5-19, 2009.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY-Works by Rhinebeck resident and self-taught outsider artist will be on view in the exhibition, Cubata: Paintings by Corso de Palenzuela, at the James W. Palmer '90 Gallery at Vassar College from Thursday, March 5, through Thursday, March 19. The gallery hours are 11:00 am to 4:00 pm; Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 to 6:00 pm. The opening reception on Thursday, March 5, from 4:30-6:30pm, will be followed with special tours of Faith and Fantasy in Outsider Art from the Permanent Collection, during "Late Night at the Lehman Loeb," in the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center (5:00-9:00pm).

Mary-Kay Lombino, the Emily Hargroves Fisher '57 and Richard B. Fisher Curator at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar, worked closely with two Vassar students, Emily Kloppenburg (class of 2011) and Kate Conlow (class of 2009), to organize the exhibition of 19 paintings that combine colorful landscapes, portraits of people, and exotic animals that capture the culture and beauty of Cuba. Baron Corso de Palenzuela, known simply as Corso, creates imaginative and idiosyncratic scenes that are painted in oil on plywood and cardboard-often enhanced with symbolism derived from Spanish-Hebraic mysticism and visions from his childhood experience.

Lombino is the curator of the Art Center's current exhibition Faith and Fantasy in Outsider Art from the Permanent Collection (2/13 - 4/26). "These two exhibitions, each featuring work by self-taught artists, complement one another beautifully," noted Lombino. "Corso's paintings, with their fantastic scenes and clear focus on the spiritual, fit perfectly with the theme of Faith and Fantasy."

The self-taught outsider artist describes himself as obsessive, and this trait comes out in his selections chosen for this exhibition. Corso's obsession: Cuba, and he devotes his vision to depictions of his mother country. All of his paintings in the show, and most of his artwork, are set in the context of Cuba, or about Cuba.  Many of these depict birds, dogs, or other animals.

Cubata, pronounced with the accent on the last syllable, is the term used by the artist to describe the aesthetic essence of his work. Self-referential, Cubata speaks of his intense affection for the Cuba of his childhood. In his own words, "Cubata is the beautiful and the ugly. Cubata is life and death."

His artwork is also inspired by his Sephardic Jewish background, with scenes of Jews traveling by boat to Cuba.  The landscape where he lived in until he was eight also is found in his work, with depictions of plants, workers, and wildlife, as well as the activities that surrounded him. He says that many of the scenes he depicts come to him through visions.

Using a palate of bright colors, Corso paints with oil on wood or cardboard.  Artwork, for him is more of a pastime that suits his cultural and spiritual craving.  He began making his artwork around 30 years ago, but not to please other people only himself. Soon after he began painting, the Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta discovered Corso's artwork.  Since then he has exhibited his work along the Atlantic coast, including galleries in the Hudson Valley area, Yeshiva University, and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. 

Born in Havana, Cuba, into a prominent Spanish aristocratic family of bankers, jewelers, diamond merchants, distinguished clergy, and landowners, Baron Corso de Palenzuela, left Cuba at the age of seven with his mother and father for the United States during Fidel Castro's rise to power. While in America, the family maintained its high status and wealth for many years and encouraged Corso's artistic pursuits, when he began painting at the age of ten.

In addition to painting he has explored the fields of jewelry design, writing, and photography. Corso is also accomplished in the culinary arts and is a food critic with a specialty in Cuban, Spanish, Basque, Nuevo Latino and Latin World cuisines.

Conversant in three languages, Corso has traveled to over 20 countries. In addition, the artist has extended his interests to equestrian sport, cycling and chess playing. His work, has received high acclaim internationally, as well as domestically. Corso resides in the Hudson Valley and Virginia.

Situated between the North Atrium and the Retreat cafeteria, the James W. Palmer III Gallery is at the heart of the College Center. Constructed in 1996, the gallery was named and endowed by the Palmer family in 2000 in memory of their son James, a member of the class of 1990. Serving as an exhibition space for artwork created within and beyond the Vassar community, the gallery displays art of diverse mediums, themes, and origins.

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February 11 - February 22
(Audiophile) Sound works exemplifying the versatility of artistic expression engendered by recent developments in digital technologies will be presented by 14 Vassar students.

February 25 - March 3
VOICES: All College Day Mural Retrospective 2001-2008
Reception: Thursday, February 26, 4:30-6:00pm
Features the eight-year history of All College Day murals at Vassar. The canvasses depict comments and expressions on All College Day, held in late February to mark a day of dialogue and campus community building. The murals feature a range of themes, including Vassar/Poughkeepsie relationships, race relations, collective responsibility, and finding common ground.

March 5 - March 19
Cubata: Paintings by Corso de Palenzuela
Reception: Thursday, March 5, 4:30-6:30pm
Curated by Vassar students, Emily Kloppenburg (class of 2011) and Kate Conlow (class of 2009), under the direction of Mary-Kay Lombino, this exhibition features 19 paintings by this self-taught outsider artist, Baron Corso de Palenzuela, who lives in Rhinebeck. He combines colorful landscapes, portraits of people, and exotic animals to capture the culture and beauty of Cuba. Corso's imaginative and idiosyncratic scenes are painted in oil on plywood and cardboard-often enhanced with symbolism derived from Spanish-Hebraic mysticism and visions from his childhood experience.

March 22 - March 28
A Celebration of Art: The Annual John Iyoya Children's Art Show
Reception: Sunday, March 22 at 2:00pm
This is an annual event honors the memory of John Iyoya, a former Vassar student, who exemplified a wonderful sense of creativity and love of children. The show is sponsored by the Department of Education and features the artwork of students from area schools.

March 30 - April 2
Exhibition of Haitian Art
In conjunction with the Annual Haitian Art Auction and Sale, sponsored by the Vassar Haiti Project. The Auction and Sale, held April 3-5, includes 300 original Haitian paintings, handcraft, hand-painted silk scarves, and iron sculpture. For more information about the Vassar Haiti Project, see

April 3 - May 24
Vassar College Studio Art Department Student Exhibitions
Rotating schedule of student exhibitions from the Vassar College Studio Art Department.

Posted by Office of Communications Monday, February 9, 2009