Consuelo Castañeda

Now and in all times

/ 25 November, 2016

(…) An active protagonist of the “Cuban Renaissance”, as Luis Camnitzer baptized this movement, was artist Consuelo Castañeda who, as many of her contemporaries, contributed to the art of those years that sense of “postmodern” freedom so characteristic to the period. Also, as several of her contemporaries, in the early 1990s Consuelo decided to emigrate, first to Mexico and later to the United States, a country in which she has lived for more than twenty years. Since then, her work has been a far-off reference for not a few Cubans in the island, until hardly some days ago CCC 2016, a personal and retrospective exhibition of the artist, was opened in Galería Orígenes, located in the recently restored Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso.

CCC 2016 is an exhibition that is appreciated in a very special way because of several reasons. In the first place, it is a deserved recognition of the path of its versatile artist, one of the most “chameleonic” of Cuban art of all times. It is also a unique opportunity for the (re)discovery of her work, a necessary update on her career after the almost thirty years since she left Cuba. And, undoubtedly, it is an invitation to the study of a work that camouflages itself and intends to be hard to grasp, which shows itself singularly eclectic as a whole and that even transcends the limit of its own postmodern condition. It was not fortuitous that Joseph Kosuth labeled Consuelo’s work as “post-postmodernism” in a date as early as 1986, while she was in Cuba to participate in the Second Havana Biennial. And it is impossible not to perceive the enormous significance that this artist grants to the quote and the irony, in her games with re-appropriations of appropriations of the history of art.

Even when it is a retrospective, CCC 2016 is not conceived according with a chronological criterion. It rather tries to group the works by segments alluding conceptual constants in Consuelo’s career. Her intertextual vocation, for example, may be appreciated in one of the sections of the exhibition with works produced   in the 1980s, in which pieces of other artists are parodically quoted and attention is centered not only in art as it is, but also as a phenomenon closely linked with its aesthetic and social past. (…)

In spite of her traditional and academic training (she graduated from the “San Alejandro” Fine Arts Academy in 1977), Consuelo is an artist operating from and towards the questioning of the representation of two-dimensionality. In it, her path through the High Art Institute (1977-1982) decisively influenced her, since at the beginning researched methods of revolutionary, questioning and anti-academic studies, in which investigation as an inherent factor of the creative process, were privileged. The art of the 1980s, also called “New Cuban Art”, thus revealed the enormous influence that the courses of conceptualism exerted on it. The aesthetic theory, the cultural studies and the philosophical thought passed to form part of teaching and strongly penetrated in the work of several generations of artists, among them Consuelo herself, whether as a student or a teacher in that Institute.

CCC 2016 ratifies the perennial suspicion of the artist for the two- dimensional representational limits, but also her obsession to make the spectator an active part, away from that passive role it occupies in many spheres of contemporaneity, with the consequent risk of   homogenization. (…)

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