Just a Matter of Time

(Art)xiomas: The Next Generation

/ 1 September, 2016

(Art)xiomas: The Next Generation was an exhibition curated by Gabriela García Azcuy in which the work of 15 young Cuban artists was connected. With a wide coverage of the North American press, the result (explicitly stated in 23 works of diverse expressions) was exhibited between June 9 and August 7 of 2016, in the Art Museum of the Americas (AMA) in Washington D. C.[1]

Reading the words in the catalogue we understand that (Art) xiomas… do not pretend to be exclusivist. The exhibition was conceived as “notes”, as a mutable experience and in full development,[2] always open to artists who disclose new facets in that generational lapse they intend to  apprehend.

(…) When, in reference to this generation, Gabriela mentions a “remarkable autonomy”, an “individual management in her own spaces and workshops”, I cannot avoid thinking in Estudio 331, where Alex Hernández, Frank Mujica and Adrián Fernández have joined forces. When she talks about the “continuous work with the national institutions and with galleries and international centers”,[3] Mabel Poblet suddenly comes to my mind, a youngster who has known how to take in her hand outstanding exhibitions in the UNEAC, as Patria (Homeland),[4] with a constant work in international galleries (Co Galería in Chile and Patricia Conde in Mexico are just two examples). In that same way, when referring to “aesthetic-conceptual articulation” as “amalgam functioning as sufficient tautology”, the interweaved photos by Jorge Otero, the landscapes with openwork paper by Ariamna Contino, Frank Mujica’s charcoal drawings and the exquisite visual narrations  by Adislén Reyes suddenly emerge. Finally, already closing her text, Azcuy points out: “They are indisputably Cuban artists, but they belong to the era of cultural globalization. So they should not be analyzed as part of a local art, separated of the international sceneries and approaches.”[5]

With this in mind, I think on the gearings that could function for this generation, which grew with Facebook and the myth of Damien Hirst as a possible path to success. A generation for which to be an artist is not only to appear in the slides of the professors of History of Art, but—as former generations in Cuba have demonstrated—implies a sign of social status, a legitimate escape of deprivations and feeble economies.

We live in a world where, whether we like it or not, the catalogues of Christie’s and Sotheby’s establish a good part of the social meridian; a world where Andy Warhol is the fourth most goggled artist—whatever this means—, while Joseph Beuys is ranked 74.[6] Cuba, of course, belongs to this world, so to ignore this would be as useless as talking to a cactus.

On the other hand, with regard to the dialectic that—in the exhibition—is established with these artists, something intrigues me. “They are Cubans living in Cuba”, the press repeats over and over again, as if they were speaking of exotic birds. And it seems the phrase has something magic, as if in its inexplicably necessary redundancy it answered all possible questions. For a Cuban artist to remain in Cuba is an everyday condition that results in the most vintage for the market, something like having wine in Paris or study Buddhism in the cliffs of the Himalaya: a condition of mark that previously guarantees the quality—or at least the status—of his works.

It has become common to speculate on the reason of this mysticism. In facts, until recently it was attributed to the egocentrism product of our deeply rooted cultural inbreeding. But something is really happening. I perceive it when a character as global as Don Thompson, joking on the paradoxes of the cultural world in Havana and the possibilities of its artists and art academies, refers that: “The graduates of Fine Arts in Yale Columbia may have chosen the wrong school”.[7]

Finally, on the notes by Gabriela on her (Art)xiomas, I would add that this is a generation that has grown with time to learn the mistakes of the past; that understands the disappointment and uselessness of the sacrifice for alien causes. This is a generation that avoids unnecessary conflicts, that balances on the margin of the borders; that endures what it does not like and takes all the possible benefits from the peculiarities of its context. This is a generation which knows that, to succeed in art, the path is not far from their island, but well inside the land. (…)

For these youngsters, Cuba goes further than any debate, posture or political party. Tatlin’s Whisper does not worry them, nor the tantrums of that agonic past they have inherited. They know that Kronos will eventually do his work. They know the world belongs to them and it is only a matter of time.


[1] Following the press, apparently it is necessary to highlight that AMA is the museum of the Organization of American States (OAS).

[2] Recently Gabriela García Azcuy confirmed me the possibility of the new editions in other museums in the United States and even Spain.

[3] García Azcuy, Gabriela: “(Art)xiomas”, (Art)xiomas. Cuban Contemporary Art, Art Museum of the Americas, Washington D.C., June 2016, page 2. (ebook).

[4] Galería Villa Manuela, Collateral to the Duodecimal Havana Biennial, June 2016.

[5] García Azcuy, Gabriela: “(Art)xiomas”, (Art)xiomas. Cuban Contemporary Art, Art Museum of the Americas, Washington D.C., June 2016, page 14. (ebook).

[6] “Hot Installations Drive Up June’s Top 300 Artist Searches” in https://news.artnet.com/market/june-top-300-searches.

[7] [7] Thompson, Don: La Supermodelo y la Caja de Brillo (The Supermodel and the House of Brilliance), Editorial Planeta, 2015, p.241.


Rigoberto Otaño Milián

Rigoberto Otaño Milián

La Habana, 1987. Licenciado en Letras por la Universidad de La Habana. Actualmente ejerce como especialista del sello editorial Collage Ediciones del Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales. Ha publicado textos sobre arte cubano en catálogos y revistas.

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