Art & Public    

/ 19 July, 2014

The eighties brought a favorable climate for environmental improvement in our cities with the boost CODEMA (the Commission for the Development of Monumental and Environmental Sculpture) gave to everything having to do with the installation of sculptures in open spaces. (…) While this happened, in Havana ephemeral experiences of the Arte Calle group (a sort of urban art guerrilla), actions by Juan-Si in El Vedado, and those by Glexis Novoa in individual and collective exhibitions emerged, different in their nature and transcendence from the performance actions Leandro Soto had staged in the city of Cienfuegos since the final years of the seventies. In the nineties, CODEMA favored the Walk of the Sculptures in the Havana Computer Sciences University with the installation of more than ten enormous oeuvres and, since the early 21st century, it continued its effort to place sculpture among the substantial elements of urban landscape with the projects Escultura transeúnte (Transient Sculpture) and Con to’ los hierros (With All the Irons), both in the Historical Center of the capital city.

In spite of these efforts in the last thirty years, Havana (and similarly other cities in the country) does not assume the new public art fully and conscientiously. (…)Havana has only taken on, accepted, three or four modern, contemporary, oeuvres (mostly from foreign authors) in places barely perceptible for the citizens, which is out of keeping with the impressive peak Cuban art acquired during the second half of the 20th century in almost all its expressions, acknowledged in a global scale. Figuration is still the solution most accepted by the city authorities – whether administrative or political – for the “qualification” of the public space in any sense and has resulted in the simplest, easiest way to deal with any type of relationship between creators and the urban context, between creators and power.

To a great extent, the Havana Biennial has been what has taken this city out of its entrenchment, from a long environmental torpor studded with cliches and stereotypes to turn it, every two and three years, into a “modern”, “contemporary” urban center, into a gigantic art gallery transcending its public spaces with artistic actions and interventions revealing new ways to think, reflect and enjoy unprecedented aesthetical events.

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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