Context Permutations

/ 14 November, 2014

The insertion of Cuban art in the international galleries circuit is becoming more frequent. Currently, the possibilities of improvement and exhibition of our artists have reached almost all areas of the world and a particular interest of collectors, curators and gallery owners to purchase and promote their work outside the national context is noticed.

Some renowned examples of that line such as Ella Cisneros, Howard Farber, Gilbert Brownstone, and Peter Ludwig are operating in Cuba; creating and / or sponsoring scholarships, magazines, awards, events, projects and exhibitions. Outside Cuba this circle is expanded according to various interests, at large, medium or small scale. Permutation. Contemporary Cuban Art (September 5 to November 1, 2014) is one of the most recent samples of Cuban art managed by Pan American Art Projects Gallery in the United States.

The exhibition prompted a meeting point -outside the island- for artists who live and work there. The works that were displayed, by Abel Barroso (Pinar del Rio, 1971), Roberto Diago (Havana, 1971), Jorge López Pardo (Trinidad, 1976) and the duo M & T (Meira Marrero , Havana, 1969 & José Toirac, Guantanamo, 1966) are a small sample of the plurality of issues and creative solutions that have characterized the contemporary Cuban art of this century.

Two main lines of work highlight from the sample, one that appeals to the social or political commentary, either directly or indirectly, and another that takes an introspective attitude using the metaphor.

Both Abel Barroso as Roberto Diego’s pieces deal with a number of problem that, although transcend the national space, assume a peculiar connotation within it. Barroso has been consistent in his career, with a theme, and a very personal way of expression.

The vindication of engraving on the 1990s was a peak period for the manifestation, moment where the artist highlighted by the way he reversed the procedural logic, as it was established and took the xylographic matrix as final work, not as support.

With this original way of doing, he throws some comments about migration and continuing exodus of Cubans. Thus, his pieces have reflected, in various ways and for a long time, the dynamics of Cubans inside and outside the island.

Diago, in a similar manner, gives prominence to the material, in which he concentrates all the expressive content. He almost always makes emphasis on the constructive aspect of creation, from wood and metal assembling and structure of the canvases. He praises material with the pretext of inquiring into certain social issues such as marginalization, religion, race, etc.

However, these topics are barely hinted at, as it stands the high level of expressive and formal synthesis. The most interesting thing in his poetry is the subtlety with which he creates, reinvents and exposes these concepts, often worked in an epidermal way. The excellence of his art has always resided in that rare combination of violence and inner serenity, which shows a mental state where it nests, as Rufo Caballero would say, “his spirituality in turmoil.”

Diago’s poetics, in turn, connects with the subtlety of the pieces by Jorge López Pardo, who has the most introspective look of the artists featured; channeled into a philosophical, existential proposition. His approaches appeal to all a self-referential universe, where the intimate and personal story survives. His canvases represent imagined spaces where the absence of man is common. Such drama is emphasized by the use of a monochrome image whose degradation in black and white builds a metaphor on loneliness. His work is also a kind of escape towards another reality, less disturbing than the current one.

Moreover, the piece by the duo M & T comes to break-by its format- with the two-dimensional sense of the exhibition. In this case the gallery exhibits an installation (Ave Maria, 2010) consisting on a set of 55 different sculptural representations of Cuba’s patron virgin, also accompanied by a text by José Martí, the national apostle.

The work uses key symbols of Cuban culture to illustrate a hybrid identity where the religious, political or social components acquire equally importance. Although the piece, on one hand, breaks the selection logic, on the other, comes to unify its direction. It summarizes those concerns about racial, socio-political, religious issues, with an unprejudiced reading of what is today the Cuban identity.

Pan American Art Projects brings up a discreet yet interesting proposal, regarding contemporary Cuban art. Artists of a not so close generation reveal a coherent discourse through their own work and with the phenomena of the present. I think this was a wise choice as a project; without risk to business failure, since both names, supports and themes are of a high artistic and attractive visual level.

Loliett Marrero Delachaux

Loliett Marrero Delachaux

La Habana, 1990. Licenciada en Historia del Arte por la Universidad de La Habana. Desde 2013 labora como especialista en el Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam. Ha publicado artículos sobre arte cubano y latinoamericano en las revistas Arteamérica, El Caimán Barbudo, Extramuros y el Boletín Ojeada que emite el Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam.


Great review! I like Loliett´s points and agree with most of them. Cheers!



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