Divine and Profane

/ 1 March, 2016

Each time has its readings, its ways to interpret. From the perspective of the twenty-first century, how do we approach the religious thematic with a catholic profile in art? (…) Cuban historiography usually declares that painting with a religious profile during the conquest and colonization was differentiated from the centers of terra firma since there had been no need to catechize in the island, but only to “maintain the faith”. (..) The nineteenth century, for its part, will give continuity to this religious demand through, among others, the directors of the San Alejandro Academy, whose perhaps the more well-known case is that of Juan B. Vermay. Although the Church became a source of thematic demand from the expositive point of view, to thematize in question began to present the so-called “Change of century” in an indirect way.i Up to this point, we could systematize that, although it would not become a regular thematic, religious painting had stored-up a substantial selection of works. This, undoubtedly, serves as a portico to call the attention of the critics on the 1940s and 1950s dynamics, a horizon in which numerous examples inscribed under that trend were also born. A panoramic analysis of them will prove the existence of a certain trend to the representation of the son of God and of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, a tendency that in a not casual way stretched out to our days.

(…) An artist who must be taken into account is Lázaro Saavedra. The figure of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre allows him to refer to the sham, a postmodern concept to which he turns in diverse instances and even to combine different actions: the dichotomy between thought and discourse, the revelation between truth and lie. “Cachita” abandons the sacred space and Con la fuerza del ejemplo (With the Strength of the Example) intends to contribute to weather the storm, in a representation transcending what is strictly religious to place itself in the context of the 1990s and the Special Period, in a more worldly level and with political bias. (…) However, the proposal that in 2010 Meira Marrero and J. Ángel Toirac entitled Ave María will not be so polysemous. In this piece, the relationship between the religious image (which embodies in twenty-five virgins placed on an horizontal log as an improvised altar) and political ethos patents through the inclusion, instead of a Mariana prayer, of a phrase of the Apostle: “O la república tiene por base el carácter entero de cada uno de sus hijos (…) o la república no vale una lágrima de nuestras mujeres, ni una sola gota de sangre de nuestros bravos”(Or the republic has as a basis the entire nature of each of its children (…) or the republic is not worth a tear of our women, not even a drop of blood from our braves). Through the phrase, the authors are also able to revisit the historical horizon previous to the revolutionary triumph of 1959 and, from their premises, to launch unequivocal looks to the present. Our Lady of Charity, the Patroness of Cuba, is placed in the center of these dialogues, as a link allowing the journey not only through the homeland, but also for our artistic production, at times deified, at times… exceedingly humanistic.

i Change of Century is a temporal –not artistic– term which Cuban museology has adopted to designate a lapse, from 1894 to 1917, in which several artistic trends coexist. (Editor’s Note)

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