The contemporary Cuban ceramics

/ 8 January, 2015

A praxis that is revitalized


In general we can say that in the Cuban ceramic of recent decades a number of changes have been introduced in the formal conception of the proposals. There is therefore a redefinition of ceramic art given the characteristics of object propositions of their main exponents. This new concept can be seen in freedom that the creator has to do everything he considers appropriate to promote certain reflections: as an example, it could be mentioned incorporating extra-ceramic elements and industrial materials that share the stage with those of this discipline; and the ambiguity of the messages that allow varied readings.

The grotesque acts as demystifying element in the work of some authors. We might mention, in this case, the series Comilones (2000) by Osmany Betancourt, a version of Las chismosas (1995) by Martha Jimenez, the deformed and aggressive sexual organs produced by Darlyn Delgado in En boca cerrada… mirada cómplice (2006) and already since the initial parts by Sanchez that openly show a denial of the formalistic sublime reaching its peak in the eschatological forms that become the latest of her work in ceramics. So visuality that in many cases is enhanced in the works depends on the possible interpretations that are intended to suggest.

It is also perceived the ephemeral nature of some of the installative works made by artists, both established and new, as installation is one of the leading discursive modalities in this new millennium. We are witnessing undoubtedly an art object, rather than a distinct ceramics. In this respect it highlights proposals such as Tsunami (2010) by Humberto Díaz, Lo más inquietante (2001) by Sergio Raffo, the exhibition Sentido (2004) by Lisbet M. Fernandez and Epojé by Teresa Sánchez, just to cite some examples.

With respect to the meanings, it is noted that the speeches are focused on human problems, one of the meanings of greater generality of postmodernist art, and the ways to say of some artists become more acute. Precisely in relation to human problems, it is valid to mention that the addressed issues have been, mostly, extremely sensitive, committed to social issues and even today are worrisome not only for Cuba, but -in some cases, are extended to other contexts.

The migration has been treated by various artists from different perspectives. Angel Rogelio Oliva approaches it from the standpoint of family breakdown and all that that implies. This creator, in a work like El pan nuestro de cada día (1991) was interested in another worrying issue: the partitioning of the world by the imperialist powers, with particular emphasis on the consequences of such negative events affecting humans.

Reflections on macro-social issues and of universal nature that is exceedingly highly topical as isolation, commodification, consumerism, lack of democracy that do not escape to discipline. As an expression of discontent and a frontal criticism to false unanimity, it prevails then referring to the part belonging to the series Reflejos titled Relatividad del concepto unánime (2004) by Angel Rogelio Oliva Lloret, as the focus of the work revolves around this word and its relative application.

Meanwhile, Lisbet´s children in the exhibition Doble blanco (2006) return to star in this communicational fracture of the 21st century that is according to many the “age of communication”. Also through her peculiar infants she achieved venture into the main consequences that excessive consumerism of capitalism can generate -exemplified in the relationship between car tires almost touching the heads of the children- in Agáchate, agáchate (2006) with which she may pose that technological and reified world can destroy the most sensitive man.

The contemporary ceramic discourse includes approaches of feminist nature, prostitution, worked for several artists, but presented by Martha in such a raw way in For sale (1998), from that black humor that arises in some of her performances. Also sexuality has occupied an important place, in respect of the latter; it cannot be ignored representations of the sexual organs produced by Darlyn through which she aims to delve into sexual behavior and its impact on the social environment, always from an unprejudiced look.

Since that expressiveness and formal aggressiveness that characterize them, Osmany Betancourt and Teresa Sánchez show themselves also concerned about the individual and its main afflictions with remarkable depth in the meanings and thematic they work. The oppression of man, his physical and psychological burden, and his enclosure are already evident in the initial parts of these creators. Since the called compressed by Betancourt we are facing what could be considered a claustrophobic aesthetics. El viaje, Avestruz -in the early years of the decade of the nineties- by Teresa are no less impressive, just to mention two examples. Those are proposals that can be understood from the personal to the collective nature.

The first one, attached to figuration of expressionist roots, has arrived at his own poetic. The exhibition La comparsa (2006) could well sum up the versatility that characterizes his work in this last period. He proposed us precisely a parade of objects as diverse as the clotheslines full of hanging artefacts such as tanks, suffering faces; men and women in encouraging or resignation attitudes, an intervened toilet, taken to the gallery as authentic artistic work, in this irreverent action, among other elements. So we can say that the despair and frustration of the human being are not alien to his work in ceramics both in small, medium, large format pieces and even in installations.

Meanwhile, Sánchez, equally versatile, and in her own words “trying to avoid typecasting” has managed to articulate a solid speech that results in works with a strong neo-expressionist language that can classify as “grotesque alarmism” but also figurative or partially abstract. Of course, her proposal of excrement to insinuate absolute dehumanization and loss of values of modern society is really unusual. The terms that identify some of her creations are complex – perhaps to strangers- which expands their understanding.

In short it is valid to say that with this approach, it gets demonstrated that the manifestation and many of those who find in it an ideal means to express their main ideo-aesthetics concerns highlighted in their works the changes occurred. It is evident then that there is an acuity and complexity in respect to the solution of the proposals and the topics covered. This is reflected in the grotesque nature of some representations, the incorporation of extra-ceramic elements and re-contextualization, the rise of installation, which together with many other elements, hamper the interpretive possibilities, creates new and conflicting readings and enrich this praxis that, without a doubt, is at the height of the rest of the expressions of Cuban contemporary art.

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