Ybor-Go-Round: Perpetual Expression II at HCC Ybor

The exhibit celebrates Ybor's history through and with art.

Ybor’s Perpetual Expression II

HCC Ybor Art Gallery, corner of Palm and 15th St., Ybor. 

Through Feb. 7.

click to enlarge It's a merry-go-round made of bread and art. Seriously cool work. - David Audet
David Audet
It's a merry-go-round made of bread and art. Seriously cool work.

The tree of Cuban bread sums up what you can expect to see at Perpetual Expression II at HCC Ybor: history told through the artists. It also calls to mind a verse from David Dondero's "South of the South":

"So I jumped my pogo stick/ All the way to Ybor City/Where they burned up a couple blocks/And to me seemed like a pity/That was once a Cuban district and a center for the arts/Was now a mall-like atmosphere/Homogenous and insincere/They burned its heart right out"

Except, of course, the heart of Ybor still beats, and nowhere is this more clear than at Perpetual Expression II, a celebration of Ybor's history through art from Ybor artists.

When's the last time you visited Ybor? Until I took the job at CL, I hadn't been there since Samurai Blue was new (still one of my fave sushi places). Let's use Caitlin Albritton's words — she had the chance to see the exhibit before it was quite ready:

"If you hear enough mistruths about something, it’s bound to shape your thoughts about it. When it comes to Ybor City, the list of accusations is most likely exhaustive in its reputation for gangs, violence and wild Friday nights. Perpetual Expression II at HCC’s Ybor Gallery was created to break the tainted preconceived notions of Ybor being only a party district," she writes.

It's not, although I did step over some vomit on my way in this morning. There's more to Ybor than party-party-party and, if you want to know how this city's evolved, there are two things you need to do — take a walking tour of the Ybor and go see Perpetual Expressions II at HCC Ybor's art gallery. Hell, the walking tour guides could probably offer thoughtful perspectives on each piece in the show.

Walter Aye, a local lawyer who uses his money for good, not evil, and who spends his spare time on the Board of Trustees for the Tampa Museum of Art, brought about the first Perpetual Expression. He worked off a list created by arts incubator Michael Murphy (the Ybor equivalent of St. Pete's Bob Devin Jones) and Susan Johnson (who has no equivalent).

“Walter Aye wanted to point out that there is a long cultural history here, going back to even the mutual aid society: they had theatre and operas. People don’t realize that Ybor is and was it’s own self-contained community,” Michael Murphy, exhibition co-curator and owner of Silver Meteor Gallery, says. “Years ago, Susan Johnson and I were talking about doing an Ybor cultural archive. We have historical societies and the museum, but no one is thinking about the ephemeral art that has occurred here, so we started creating this large list.”

And now they're on their second show, for which they looked for new artists. They included artists from Titanic Anatomy, an art collective from the early '90s that lived and thrived in a 19th Street warehouse, and, in total, 18 artists tell Ybor's story in art, from the aforementioned bread tree — which has the best name ever (albeit the longest — "School of Nightie-Knight Time Machine and Ybor-Go-Round,"  a title built around Ybor history (I could explain it here but we have limited space, so go with me on this, OK?)

David Audet created this centerpiece with his students at Lee Academy for the Gifted, and instead of carousel horses, this physically moving (literally) piece has loaves of Cuban bread. However, this bread is well past its "eating" stage of life; each loaf — the size of the perfect Cuban sandwich — becomes its own piece of art, and the collaboration between the students creates the Ybor-Go-Round. 

"Different Shades of White" - Edgar Sanchez Cumbas
Edgar Sanchez Cumbas
"Different Shades of White"

Using a list of Ybor and near-Ybor artists, Curator Carolyn Kossar chose the pieces. Some, like Edgar Sanchez Cumbas' "Different Shades of White" and the aforementioned centerpiece work (patrons have no choice but to contemplate this massive work) have literal meanings and interpretations about Ybor culture and history.

click to enlarge One of Kurt Holyoke's works in Ybor's Perpetual Expressions II, image courtesy of the gallery. - Kurt Holyoke
Kurt Holyoke
One of Kurt Holyoke's works in Ybor's Perpetual Expressions II, image courtesy of the gallery.

Others, like Elizabeth Mitchell's "Peace Offering," will take a bit more effort on your part.

Regardless of which type of art you prefer, take the time to visit Ybor — in the daytime, no less — and wander through this small but deliberate exhibition.

And don't forget to ask Kossar when to expect the next installment.

Cathy Salustri is the arts + entertainment editor. Contact her here. Caitlin Albritton contributed to this article. 

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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