Drama and Utopia in Jesús de Armas

/ 1 December, 2018

After a long absence from our galleries and specialized centers, the work of Jesús González de Armas (1934-2002) is returning to us (…) in one of the temporary rooms of the Havana Museum of Fine Arts under the title of Jesús de Armas, drama y utopía, curated by Laura Arañó Arencibia, a specialist of said institution.

A group of 42 works (most of them on bristol and paper, and a few on canvas) make up this display of which 13 belong to the San Antonio de los Baños Humor Museum, three to private collections and the rest to the thesaurus of the Museum of Fine Arts. Accompanied by the (…) documentary  De Armas, el último taíno, made by Santi Segarra and the artist in Paris in 2001, with the participation of notable European and Caribbean intellectuals (among them Helene Lasalle, Edouard Glissant, Antonio Seguí, Anne Tronche), it was possible to also appreciate six of his animated drawings made for the Cuban Institute of Cinema Art and Industry (ICAIC) between 1960 and 1967 as part of a fimography that reached the total figure of 14 and in which Eduardo Muñoz Bachs, Tulio Raggi, Holbein López, Alfredo Rostgaard, Fresquito Fresquet formed part together with Jesús de Armas (as he would be known from then onwards), all of them valuable Cuban humorists and draftsmen from that time.

The history of art in Cuba unquestionably had a debt with him (…). He did not join any of the prevailing tendencies of the 1960s: pop art, abstraction, expressionism, new figuration, although he had a greater affinity with the latter two. His almost total dedication at the head of the Animated Cartoons Department (ICAIC) (…) prevented him from having sufficient free space to devote himself entirely to drawing and painting, his principal obsessions as a creator. However, he was able to fuse these conceptual and formal aesthetic expressions to thus offer an authentic and original work that would distinguish him from then onwards (…)

Among so much presence of color brandished by the legitimated painters of that decade (…), De Armas presented himself before everyone with an excessive soberness due to the restricted use of the red and black and to a dynamic and solid drawing of pre-Hispanic roots. (…) He was undoubtedly a rare specimen. Years later he was able to create characters like the duo Don Velázquez y Panfilón and the Cacique Ariguanabo to express starting then the contradictions and deep differences between the colonizers and the colonized, in Cuba’s origins, which obsessed him so much from the intellectual point of view as a way of rescuing that unquestionable value of cultures which was paid little attention then in our cultural and social sphere.

However, his imprint would mark young artists from the 1980s generation, when the anthropologic and ethnographic studies caught the attention of Juan Francisco Elso, José Bedia, Ricardo Rodríguez Brey in drawings, objects and installations that were something like apparently new themes of the island’s visual arts when Jesús was becoming one of its unquestionable precursors. (…)

For us the presence of Jesús de Armas and his real importance faded away until now when, fortunately, that compact, coherent whole of museological rigor was shown, displayed on the walls of the Museum of Fine Arts (…)

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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