Made in Cuba: Utopias and some others honors

/ 1 March, 2018

“I cannot think of a place with more utopias per square meter”
Orlando Hernández

Cuban history is full of utopias. There are small and giant utopias, heartbreaking, silent, inclusive and exclusive ones. Under these lights, art has (…) been the most recurring defense mechanism. It is known that an utopia dies when it is achieved… while the moment of gestation has the highest utopic value. History is a process, as much as or even more than a utopia, though sometimes, the generational gaps between us and the historic event place the incident in past tense. The utopia used by Orlando Hernández to speak about the Taller (Print Workshop) goes beyond.

The exhibition AB(out) (Kendall Art Center, Nov–Dec 2017) and the accompanying monograph, entitled Todo lo que quería saber de serigrafía artística cubana… y nunca le contaron (All you wanted to know about Cuban artistic silk screen printing… and were never told), both by the artist Aldo Menéndez (1948), are gifted with surprising validity and novelty (…) 120 Cuban silk screen prints on display at the Centro, many of them from Taller Portocarrero, founded by Aldo in 1983, which he led until 1990 (…)

This exhibition, showing a wide range of national and foreign artists, can be analyzed as a testimony of our historical and cultural ups and downs. The skill of this production is based, as Menéndez says, on the human resources found in the Workshop (…). In the midst of scarceness and limitations of all kind, these resources were the tool that placed those works in a prominent position overseas, on organizing the International Meetings for Artistic Silk Screen printing of the three initial Havana Biennials.

“The initial rapprochement with international artistic silk printing was in 1942, Menéndez explains, when the Habana Lyceum showed an important exhibition of outstanding American silk screen printers. Then (…) new spaces and printings that contributed to foster in Cuba the takeoff of artistic silk screen printing, with some pioneers associated with constructivism: Salvador Corratgé and Wifredo Arcay and the poster maker Eladio Rivadulla (…) In this sense, the 1960s and the 70s are also represented by the creative UNEAC Printing Workshop, led by Julio Pérez Medina and that of the Casa de las Américas. Likewise functioned those directed by painters Luis Miguel Valdés y Carlos Uribazo. Each of them, friends and colleagues, were called by me, as member of the advisory committee, eager to share their experiences to start the Print Workshop in the Cuban Cultural Assets Fund, later renamed Portocarrero”.

The Taller prioritized artistic elements over technical virtuosity and no one unaware of this art form could operate a scraper or waste ink in making reproductions. The results are unquestionable and the achievements are still vivid, in a style still existing in other workshops such as: Pepe Herrera and Francisco Bernal in Madrid, or Nelson Villalobo de Vigo, as well as La Siempre Habana, of Luis Miguel in Michoacán.

(…) This exhibition and the monograph attest to the luxury years of our silk screen printing, also seen in the diaspora, in the Miami Press Workshop, established by the painter Víctor Gómez. (…) The KAC halls, a Center directed by the collector Leonardo Rodríguez (…) are today an elegant space, with curator work from Henry Ballate and Ivonne Ferrer. (…)

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