Notes on Solid Abstraction in the Era of Liquid Modernity

/ 1 September, 2018

Abstracción sólida. Estrategias desobedientes en el arte Cubano contemporáneo, curated by Aldeide Delgado, takes as point of departure the pivotal moment that the triumph of abstraction in the 1950s represented for the history of Cuban art. While for Cuban art that historic moment represents the consonance, for the first time, with the artistic isms of the avant-garde worldwide, in the insular plane a staunch resistance to its acceptance was registered. Restricted by the controversy on its use in terms of what was Cuban and the national identity that had functioned until then as the fundamental course of Cuban avant-garde art and regarding this the magazine Revista Avance as the governing press organ, the absence of concrete referents that stand for reality would become the target of criticisms not just at the moment of inception of the new abstract adventure—informal as well as concrete—but would also be retaken a decade later to disarticulate the movement.

In 1958 Juan Marinello published Conversación con nuestros pintores abstractos (Conversation with Our Abstract Painters). Reedited in 1960 the essay that accused abstraction of being a “dehumanized art,” “a copy of the foreign,” “superficial,” “internationalist,” that it “played into the hands of the oppressors inside and those from abroad” meant, in the new context, the final ruse for the Cuban abstractionist movement.

From that same controversy and from the tense Cuban sociopolitical panorama of the time governed by the guidelines drawn out by the Cuban Cultural Policy of the 1959 Revolution, a reductive tendency within historicism constricting the projection and reach of the varied abstractionist adventure of the 1950s to its merely formal aspect has predominated since then. The critics have historically eluded the Cuban abstract’s openly political character of some of its exponents—especially in its informal aspect. Regarding this, suffice it to recall the strong opposition by the group of Los Once (The Eleven) to the program of events and grants sponsored by the National Institute of Culture (1955-1959) created by Fulgencio Batista and that advocated a supposed “absolute apolitical stance.” The full participation of the group in the exposition Homenaje a José Martí, also known as Anti-Biennial or Anti Franco Biennial, is another conclusive proof of the group’s political stance.

Thus, I am reluctant to accept the idea of assuming Cuban abstractionism’s takeoff as a mere formalistic interest. Rather, I would dare to affirm—as I have already aforementioned—that it is precisely right from the emergence of the Cuban abstractionist drive that the character of commitment to the reality of that difficult lineage that the abstract in Cuban art was already being announced.

(…) Abstracción sólida… is thus in keeping with that line of research where the deep-rooted component (conceptual) determines the resulting formal. For this, Delgado bases herself on the consensus-dissensus dichotomy enunciated by Jacques Ranciere by incorporating “disobedience as a strategy of creation.”

(…) Abstracción sólida… joins this effrt to recover the continuation and reach of the abstract tradition in Cuban art. (…)

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