On opening night, El Sexto will enter a replica of the cell in Havana’s maximum-security Combinado del Este prison where he was once jailed, and will remain there for three days on a hunger strike, consuming only water. Guests will be able to view El Sexto through the bars of his cell as he creates art in solidarity with the Cuban people and political prisoners in countries such as China, Russia, Turkey, and Venezuela. Work on display will include art that El Sexto completed while jailed in Cuba. You can RSVP and learn more here.
ANGELS & DEMONS is the first event in the Human Rights Foundation’s Art in Protest series. Curated by HRF’s Holly Baxter and produced by the artist's representative, Adam D’Arcy, El Sexto’s unique paintings and drawings will be on display from May 11-24. The show is presented in collaboration with Immersive Art Lab as the inaugural event at their 3255 3rd Street location in San Francisco’s Dogpatch district. The exhibition space is designed by Jenny Boyle at JBI Designs and constructed by Ben Morgenstern’s team at Immersive Art Lab.
Maldonado named himself “El Sexto” (“the Sixth” in Spanish) as a parody reference to “Los Cinco” (The Five), a group of Cuban spies convicted of espionage and attempted murder in the United States, who are celebrated as propaganda heroes by the Cuban dictatorship and used in the regime’s public art across the island. El Sexto considers the Cuban people to be the true sixth hero and tries to act as their voice through his work.
El Sexto’s paintings and performances radiate anti-authoritarianism, and often portray the regime’s leaders as pigs, monkeys, cows, and other animals. As such, El Sexto’s spray paint art has put him at great personal risk inside Cuba. He has been imprisoned four times since he turned 18 — most recently from November 26, 2016, to January 21, 2017 — and has endured torture, months-long detention in solitary confinement, and threats of execution.
ANGELS & DEMONS will feature pieces from El Sexto’s “Saints and Martyrs”, a series of individual portraits of well-known historical figures who have suffered for their principles, including China’s Liu Xiaobo — the world's only jailed Nobel Laureate — and Leopoldo López, the imprisoned leader of Venezuela's democratic opposition. For the exhibit’s visitors, the series offers insight into El Sexto’s psyche; for him, the art represents "the angels protecting him from the demons that had him physically surrounded.”
El Sexto has received international recognition for his art and activism from The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Guardian, El País, The Miami Herald, Paper Magazine, NBC, National Review, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, and PBS. In 2015, he was awarded the Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent, and was featured in Coco Fusco’s book “Dangerous Movements.” El Sexto has spoken at venues including the United Nations, the Oslo Freedom Forum, the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, and the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Most recently, he was featured in Julian Schnabel's HBO documentary, “Patria o Muerte.”
The Art in Protest series is a Human Rights Foundation project that aims to promote artists who use their talent to criticize and challenge repressive regimes. After this first exhibit in San Francisco, the series will continue in Norway at the 2017 Oslo Freedom Forum in a showcase of dissident art available for viewing from May 22-24.
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
To RSVP for the May 11 premiere, request an interview with El Sexto, or learn more about ANGELS & DEMONS, please contact HRF International Art Program Chief Curator Holly Baxter at [email protected] or El Sexto's representative Adam D’Arcy at [email protected].