Although Ulises González’s career has been developed out of Cuba, we can not fail to include him when speaking of Cuban artists. It is learned that a country is not what defines art and art itself does not have or need a nationality.
Gonzalez lives in Guadalajara since 1991 and has worked with the best Mexican galleries, including Alejandro Gallo, Nina Menocal, Oscar Roman and that of the Mexican contemporary art. He has exhibited in more than a major gallery in the Americas and Europe.
He studied Fine Arts at San Alejandro Academy ; however Ulises does not consider himself linked to any generation or school of painting in particular. “At least I do not know anyone of those belonging to mine,” he says.
In many cases, some of those who buy his work not even know that Ulises González is Cuban. “The fact of not living in Cuba makes harder for me to be part of that structure. The reality is that I am disconnected from the world of art in Cuba and its artists. I could even say that I am not linked to the art world in general. I ceased being interested in what is done or not in that field for many years. “
Ulises is aware that Cuban art has caught the attention of collectors, gallery owners and curators, for many years now. But at present, after the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States, the art made on the island has become more fashionable. Art OnCuba talked with this visual artist, whose work has been described as “intimist” and critics have said it shows the essence and training of the Cuban school.
Many anticipate a boom of Cuban art in the market, after the thaw in relations with the US . Which do you think is the future of Cuban art in the market after these rapprochements?
The resumption of relations between Cuba and the United States will surely open a door to Cuban art. The same happened when perestroika was an issue that was fashionable in the Soviet Union.
In the case of Cuba , it is curious and interesting the morbidity that has produced in the media and international opinion due to the isolation suffered by many years. This is something that makes it much more attractive, and we must seize this moment.
I can not talk much about what is happening there, but it seems to me that some of the artists on the island are politicized and make a rebellious art that will soon go out of fashion. They will have to focus on other issues.
With this opening they will have the opportunity to show their work to a new market that visits the island, of which I am glad.
Very few galleries in Cuba commercialize the work of the artists who exhibit on them. Do you think this alleged stampede of collectors could benefit the most underground Cuban art, or for artists in their workshops to more easily negotiate with those who want to buy it? What do you think is the role of the gallery for the artist?
Workshop sale is something that happens in the world. In this huge city where I live there are very few art galleries, and I have the impression that galleries will disappear due to access to the Internet and social networks, as it has happened with the travel agencies. People already look directly into the network what they want to buy.
In the case of the galleries it seems that the presence and advice of someone who has knowledge of the art world will remain important, someone with “good taste” to help collectors. In Cuba it will probably happen what already happens in the world, with the difference that the galleries still belong to the government, and there are few.
I am a romantic, and I would like galleries to always exist as they offer an adequate space where the work can be observed. If as an artist you’re loyal to your gallery owner and then you organize the exhibition from the space he gives you, and let only him to make the sale, at the end, everything is very comfortable. In my opinion, the gallery owner should help the artist to make a career, and there should be loyalty between the two of them.
What ways does a visual artist find to promote his work? How is this process, what is it about? How was in your case?
The difficulties in promoting the work are the same everywhere. Many people think that living outside Cuba makes you famous, but many have managed to succeed living there. Contrasts.
Making yourself known, in any profession, is complex and requires effort. Mexico is a hotbed of talent. However, there is a curious phenomenon, or at least it really catches my attention: there are artists whose work few people come to understand, despite having great promotion and even success.
Many factors influence promotion, and things are easier when involving the economic factor. The quality of the galleries that have represented me, that have sold my work to collectors from the likes of Egon Von Furstenberg, Claude Bernard and Spencer Trhocmorton are the things that has influenced the most to me. On the other hand, the critics have supported me; they have liked my work and perseverance.
I left Cuba without money. At that time if you were caught with a dollar in the pockets you ended up in jail. I came to Mexico without the support of any institution, without friends and the only project on the horizon was to participate in an exhibition that did not materialize then.
I myself paid the tickets and all expenses. Then I had the support of some acquaintances who gave me food and lodging for a few weeks. At that time I took with me some pictures of my exhibition Paisajes to exhibit and sell them with the idea of staying two months in this country. Time has passed and today I’ve been here for 23 years.
I needed a lot of will to do so. It was very difficult. I promoted myself, knocking on doors and showing my work, but convinced that I would live of art. Soon I got my first solo exhibition in the gallery Alejandro Gallo, in 1992, when I had just spent a year in Mexico. Some months earlier, I participated in a collective exhibition with Mata and Tamayo. It was a good experience. And I’ve also been very lucky. I have friends, extraordinarily talented artists, who have achieved their work to become famous.
Does the fact that some artists to be better known than others depend only on the quality of the work? What other elements may be influencing? Who determines the quality of a work and its value?
The quality of the work is important, but what you need to become famous is a mystery. I think you just have to be in the right place at the right time, at the exact hour. There are many factors: public relations, curators, galleries, marketing, etc.
Art is a very lucrative business and there are many interests at stake. When an artist achieves certain success, he becomes a gold mine that must be taken care even if his work is not necessarily the best. I believe in perseverance, you must believe in what you do, so people will also believe in your work.
The quality of the work may be questionable, so the advice I usually give to collectors, or people who like art-is to acquire what they like. In the end, they are who are going to see it every day at home.