Art further from tourism

/ 1 March, 2017

Trinidad, recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage because of being one of the important colonial enclaves of Cuba and the world (…), today experiences an outstanding development in the field of visual arts thanks to a group of artists who every day confront the risks and challenges of creation and, besides, those of a growing touristic industry that, in gigantic steps, threats to surpass all expectation of mercantilism because of the daily visits of persons from numerous points in the world.

The first signs of those changes observed today have their origin in the beginning of the 1980s of the past century, when the Elementary School of Art in Trinidad reached a genuine splendor after being founded several years before. Among those who contributed to it we find Carlos Mata, graduated from the National School of Art in Havana in the 1970s, which today is outstanding in that small town because of its skill to create paint workshops and conservation studies. (…) Alexandre Arrechea (former member of Los Carpinteros group and with a known international career), Aldo Soler, Jorge César Sáenz, Ileana Villazón, Guillermo Duffay, Ernesto Fernández Valmaseda (Magua), among others, passed through this School´s modest classrooms. (…) In 1989, thanks to its rigorous discipline and professionalism, the education center became a Middle School to start satisfying, among others, local needs and those of the entire central region of the Island. Through these classrooms passed, among others, Duvier del Dago, Jorge López Pardo, Wilfredo Prieto, artists recognized in Cuba and in diverse latitudes of the planet.

During the 1990s only one gallery existed in the modest villa, just when the world interest for it began to rise, based on what it could be considered a touristic boom. About the panorama of visual arts in Trinidad we knew very little in Havana, with the exception of a few local artists as Antonio Herr-Grau, Abel Mainegra, Elio Billoa, Antonio Zerquera, Rafael Zerquera (outstanding artisan of fibers) and, very specially, Benito Ortiz, one of the most talented naive artists in Cuba because of his imagination and inventive, which rediscovered for us the villa one and a thousand times. After Ortiz´s death, in 1989, the city decided to put his name to that only gallery.

At the beginning of that decade, Alejandro López Bastida, Ismael Rodríguez, Jorge César Sáenz and Yasmina Guerra, graduated in 1990, had founded an ephemeral group called Adoquín (Paving Stone) with the intention to modify the panorama of local creation in Trinidad. Towards the end of the decade, Yudit Vidal and Niels Reyes had graduated, and their works―diametrically opposed―were inspired for moments in the atmospheres emanated from local cultural life. A similar thing happened with Humberto Díaz, whose first steps were in that school until he concluded years later his academic training in the High Institute of Arts, in Havana (…).

In general, we can confirm that artistic teaching in Trinidad has produced a valuable quantity of noteworthy artists. (…) The impact of those artists and of that creative environment later consolidated, at the beginning of the 21st century, with the emergence of new galleries, a biennial of art (more than seven editions performed till today) and the Benito Ortiz Salon of popular art. (…)

Such panorama motivated the visit of various North American collectors in these times, among them Sandra Levinson and Alex Rosenberg, interested in contributing, besides, the advance of these artists and of others in ways of development. And it also motivated the project Las estaciones del arte (The Stations of Art), with the auspices of the Office of the City Historian and guided by Cuban artists, to which Eduardo Ponjuán, Roberto Diago, Eduardo Roca (Choco) contributed with their teaching and experience, revitalizing even more the local scene in search for other forms of expression beyond handicrafts and painting. (…)

Nelson Herrera Ysla

Nelson Herrera Ysla

Art critic, curator, poet. He is co-founder of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center and of the Havana Biennial, an event he led from 1999 to 2001, and where he is currently curator. He has lectured in numerous countries and published numerous critical texts in specialized publications of Cuba and abroad. General Curator of the XVI Paiz Biennial of Guatemala, 2008. Essay Jury of the Casa de las Américas Prize, 2005, and international art events in Latin America. National Award for Arts Criticism Guy Pérez Cisneros, 2007, and National Prize for Curators 2013, both in Cuba.

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