The unprecedented stare

Graphic, printing and drawing during the twenties and thirties

/ 1 December, 2017

The exhibition La Mirada inédita; la gráfia y el dibujo en los años veinte y treinta (The unprecedented stare; printing and drawing during the twenties and the thirties) currently on show in the National Fine Arts Museum in Havana, draws its attention to the strategies of the Cuban plastic arts avant–garde during the turbulent decades of the twenties and thirties in terms of drawing and printing, on finding precisely in those artistic expressions the essential lines of development that marked the evolution of that movement, ahead of the appearance of painting or sculpture.

The plastic arts renewal movements would have important expressions in graphic arts and drawing, being the main routes of the aspirations of the progressive intellectuals of the day to create a model of the nation and to strongly establish in the arts the concept of a Cuban identity. In the magazines of the time, a real revolution took place, continuously in Social, leader of this visual transformation, establishing a new view in the Cuban context. The common man visualized the modern age by accessing these publications. On the other hand, with no inhibitions, drawing tackled the rupture with academic conventions, introducing unexplored topics or superficially considered ones, such as the Afro–Cuban and peasants, or the current social contradictions, with a new language.

(…) A critical view is introduced in plastic arts by Rafael Blanco, a view filed with deep bitterness and sharp irony. Advanced in caricature creation, his wash drawings best define his artistic production, as an expressionist with almost grotesque dimensions, as grotesque as the social and political atmosphere of his day.

In 1929, Eduardo Abela returned triumphant from Paris. He distanced himself from his praised Afro-Cuban painting, and with revolutionary passion returned to el Bobo (the Fool), a popular character created in 1926 (…).

A highly important element of the plastic arts of the time is the search for the national or criollo, looking for a continental scope. In Cuba, the exploration of the popular mainly led to the expression of traditions and legends from the countryside, rural landscapes, and the guajiros (peasants) as main characters. This vision crystalizes in a national or criolla perspective that goes beyond local customs, to present a denunciation of the hopeless and miserable life of Cuban peasants. The variety of approaches to criollismo ranges from Gattorno’s impassive peasants, to Carlos Enríquez’s miserable looking peasants. It is precisely in Carlos Enríquez’s work where we find the main nuances of criollismo, inspired by what the artist called “el romancero guajiro” (the peasant ballad), which served as a theoretical synthesis of
his paintings.

(…) On the other hand, the illustrations appearing in the periodicals in the early twenties, such as Bohemia, Carteles and specially Social magazine, anticipated the presence of a modernity that decisively influenced society. Initially, Conrado Massaguer was the emblematic figure in the concept of a new, elegant and effective image that dazzled Social readers. (…) By 1927, Revista Avance appeared with a new vanguard artistic and literary proposal. (…)

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