Preface to a future Cuban contemporary art

/ 4 August, 2015

Undoubtedly, the young art of emerging artists’ generations feeds the panorama of contemporary art practices anywhere in the world. Such promotions of artists generally come from the academy, which not only speaks of strength at the institutional level in the field of culture; but a promising health in developing artistic phenomena. In Cuba, an institution with a long tradition that has been responsible for training our creators is the San Alejandro National Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1818 under the direction of French painter Juan Bautista Vermay, and it reaches our days by its invaluable contribution to art education.

Unquestionably, the participation of its students in the twelfth edition of the Havana Biennial has been a segment to be attended within the collateral exhibitions of the event; as the sample exhibited there works as a thermometer of art that is being developed and highlights the quality parameters in aesthetic and conceptual terms that are breathed today in the academy. One of the values of the exhibition El hombre y su universo -curated by Toni Piñera- is that it puts to discuss the works by the disciples with that of their teachers as well as with more that of seventeen Latin American artists; which enhances dialogue and blurs the gap between young and established artists. Moreover, it becomes the propituos space for presenting collective projects as ZIP-which “aims to decompress and socialize pedagogical-artistic processes at the Academy” – that aspire to join the vanguard of contemporary Cuban art.

From the classrooms and workshops activated as exhibition spaces, along with galleries and the integration of the areas surrounding the property, San Alejandro strengthens its artistic atmosphere during an entire month from a collective exhibition resulting from the relationship between pedagogy and art. The experience acquired while walking the spaces describes a strong interest by the students to dialogue with the public. Attentive to every visit, the young artists call out those touring the place searching for the creative potential of those who exhibit there. From my personal experience, it was extremely attractive being able to exchange ideas with these emerging artists; as the exhibition, on the one hand, allows them to be shown to the public arena and perhaps collide for the first time with the complexities of the network of elements that make up the art world, whereas for us -academicians, critics, curators, etc.- it makes us easier to analyze the characteristics and visualize the symptoms of a future artistic promotion that is today in gestation.

Precisely within the wide range of exhibited pieces, it is detected at a general level an inclination towards conceptual art; while the universe of aesthetic languages ​​favors the installative practice, without neglecting the traditional oil on canvas, drawing and photography. It also distinguishes the way in which the creators draw on their private life -many times related to domestic space-, as well as their interpersonal conflicts by turning them into conceptual substrate of their parts and translate them into a more intimate poetics. But there are another of these artists who opt for personal works and anchored to their physical context by highlighting matters concerning man and his relationship with the mass media, with nature and with the universe in general. Another group of works stands out for their visual appeal and installation location. I am talking about the environmental installation Nube -by Colombian sculptor Ricardo Cardenas-, the large pin that has been gracefully stuck to the facade of the building and the large pink bucket that resembles an oversized jam; which aesthetically seduce the passer operating by its seductive appearance as a prelude to the exhibition.

Although a survey of the sample showed us stronger and accurate parts conceptually and procedurally, those coming from the academic world and working for it did not fail to recognize the relevance of El hombre y su universo, as it allows us to explore the particularities of our future Cuban contemporary art and venture to make judgments and criteria; as well as appraise its health from diagnosis of its current state. As a preamble to what will come, with this exhibition, symptomatic of the process of artistic teaching in Cuba , we attended the prologue to our future Cuban contemporary art.

Julienne López Hernández

Julienne López Hernández

La Habana (1989). Licenciada en Historia del Arte por la Universidad de La Habana. Desde el 2012 trabaja como docente en el Departamento de Estudios Teóricos y Sociales de la Cultura de la Facultad de Artes y Letras de la Universidad de La Habana. Ha colaborado sobre temas de artes visuales cubano, latinoamericano y caribeño en publicaciones como Artecubano y el Boletín Noticias de Artecubano, y en sitios web y catálogos personales de artistas cubanos contemporáneos.

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