Cuban Art in the 1990´s 
by David Mateo
 
 


Photographs by Matthu Placek´s, © All rights reserved.
 
 


Towards the end of the 1980's Cuban art reached something of a cross-roads as the relationship between individual artists and the institutional system came under strain. At this time the position of the government towards certain artists whose works raised questions and doubts regarding Cuban culture and society was widely perceived as having reached the limits of its tolerance which, prior to this time, had been very open and accepting towards artistic expression.

Cuban art at this time was characterised by an idealistic and reflective mode which was first seen the early 1980s with the collective exhibition 'Volumen I' [Volume I]1 and which would gradually permeate almost all artistic production. Until that time, with the exception of literature, no other artform had attempted to scrutinise so profoundly and with such public repercussions, the extremely sensitive social issues of the day. Many group initiatives came into being, some of which are still regarded as paradigms of artistic and cultural harmony; 'Puré', '4 x 4', 'Hexágono', 'Arte Calle', 'Grupo provisional', 'Hacer', and 'Sano y sabroso' ; but in the opinion of a number of experts, the tension was exacerbated by the group exhibitions 'Castillo de la fuerza' [Castle of Force] and 'El objeto esculturado' [The sculptured object], by artists Félix Suazo and Alexis Somoza, or rather by the concepts, that interconnected them.

The atmosphere of anxiety towards the end of the 1980s was increased by a number of condemnatory actions against certain artists, whilst at the same time several ministerial officials were being removed from their posts. All this was against a background of a worsening economic crisis as a consequence of the unjustified embargo imposed by the US against Cuba, leading to a temporary or permanent exodus of major artists of the decade to countries such as Mexico, Venezuela and the United States. In visual arts—or at least in its most experimental and transgressive segment—there was, all of a sudden, a vacuum, a creative uncertainty.

What to say and how it should be said were questions that weighed heavily on the artistic climate during the transition period between the 1980s and the 1990s, concerns that extended to academic circles, especially among artists who were studying at the San Alejandro Art Academy and the Havana Art Institute (ISA).

The first initiative to successfully overthrow this stagnation was a project called DUPP or 'From a Pedagogical Pragmatic', organised in 1990 by the artist and teacher René Francisco at ISA. Francisco structured a kind of aesthetic and conceptual confrontation workshop, where students had the chance of considering newI have substitute the word metaphor for tropological but i may not have got the sense. it could mean metaphor or stimulant for change. Tropological resources is not a word in common use in English. this needs to be checked with the author.

Although it has been correctly translated as evident, the word 'show' reads more smoothly and has the same meaning in this context.

This is the translation of travestimo representativo. Does this mean literally 'transvestism' ie someone who dresses and behaves as the opposite sex? Without seeing the exhibition or having more details, I have left it as is.

I have changed the literal translation of decontaminated or unpolluted to the affirmative word 'purest'.
It was written as brugueras but i've only ever seen tanias name without an 's'.
Have i conveyed the sense of tropological effort correctly?
Check that this is correct meaning with author as there is no word 'signic' in English.
Again, i have substituted for the Word 'tropologiszation'. Check with author that this conveys sense.
Alternative English expression could be ''figurative interpretation''.
Style: capitalizad below with mention of Benvenuto, so Im capitalizing here.
Should insert here the ceiling for entries here. How much can the budget be for a movie entering the festival?
Can cinematography emerge? Im not sure
I don't understand this? Who are they trying to convince? One another? Have to spell this out, otherwise sounds like they trying to convince the films themselves (ie the next year's selection)
Cuban or international? might be worth mentioning
Change to 2008 dates?

metaphors for art and socio-cultural paradigms. The country was experiencing changes in its political and economical development, and the farsighted notion of the link between art and transformation, which René Francisco established with his pedagogical proposal, showed a clear understanding of it, both from a theoretical and practical point of view.

I was invited to participate in one of the work sessions of the DUPP group (if memory does not fail me, it was the second event in 1992). I was able to witness how René encouraged his students to readjust themselves to the new circumstances. I remember him telling them, most emphatically, that they were no longer in the eighties and that they had to free themselves from the conditioning influence of that period. I have to confess, at that precise moment, I began to believe that the spirit of change René Francisco was instilling in his students also entailed, some way or the other, a reservation towards, or even opposition to the decade in which he established his reputation. I have continued to corroborate this attitude in other artists of that period, as though with it they were trying to diminish the importance of, or question the level of emblematic significance with which the decade and some of its principal protagonists have survived to the present day.

The year 1993 saw the opening of the collective exhibition 'Las metáforas del templo' [The Metaphors of the Temple] at the Visual Arts Development Centre. The then students of the ISA, Carlos Garaicoa and Estereo Segura, organisers of the exhibition, understood that there was a group of students at ISA with common approaches and a work that was strong enough to be launched into the Cuban art world with a rejuvenated meaning. Almost all of them had been members of the DUPP project, including Jorge Luis Marrero, Ernesto García Nodarse, Alberto Casado, Fernando Rodríguez, Alexander Arrechea, Dagoberto Rodríguez, Marcos Castillo, Abel Barroso, Osvaldo Yero, Douglas Pérez, as well as Esterio and Garaicoa. With 'Las metáforas del templo', the link with the official institutions and their legitimising mechanisms was restored, and more importantly, the complementary links regarding art criticism and theory was renewed. To this end, a very dynamic colloquium was held, with renowned experts, such as Gerardo Mosquera, Lupe, Álvarez, Madelaine Izquierdo, Félix Suazo and Abdel Hernández. A number of significant approaches were put forward during the debate: the assumption of a 'new Cuban art' upheld by Lupe, Álvarez, which has given rise amongst artists, to so much controversy; the parable of 'analytical reaffirmation' sustained by Mosquera, where a parallel was drawn between the excessive growth of Cuban art and the outbreak of a crop of weeds; and the notion of metaphor as a 'sense of the temple' in the new generation of artists, defined by Professor Madelaine Izquierdo. But the statements made by Félix Suazo and Abdel Hernández were central—at least for me—in their analysis of the new dilemmas Cuban art was facing. Felix's observations revolved around the transactions between the world of culture and marketing, which Cuba could no longer ignore. Abdel's views emphasised the rate of change within Cuba: the conditions for artistic production and cultural mobilisation, local references, and the interaction with the Latin American and international art scenes.

Meanwhile, in what could be considered a kind of conceptual platform of 'Las metáforas del Templo', Carlos Garaicoa and Esterio Segura made known their distinctive position in their words to the catalogue:

The fact that these artists have united under one same title is justified by two aspects. On the one hand, a background of similar circumstances, not only historic but responding to pedagogical concepts inherited from artists and aesthetes who have made a mark on the younger generations of Cuban artists; and, on the other hand, the emergence of certain tendencies in their work which show I have substitute the word metaphor for tropological but i may not have got the sense. it could mean metaphor or stimulant for change. Tropological resources is not a word in common use in English. this needs to be checked with the author. Although it has been correctly translated as evident, the word 'show' reads more smoothly and has the same meaning in this context.

‹‹      Cuban Art in the 1990?s II Next ››
Cuban Art in the 1990?s
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