Cuban Art in the 1990´s 
by David Mateo
 
 
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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?

not only a readjustment within the positions and stance of Cuban artistic space, but also a new attitude towards language in itself, marked, no doubt, by this period of decline and silence mentioned before.2

I have emphasised these two projects in that specific order—first, 'DUPP' and then 'Las metáforas del templo', because both actions anticipated the conceptual and formal directions that the avant-garde would follow throughout the nineties. I am referring to a group of artists whose artistic foundations would continue to pay tribute to ideas, reflections, and, above all, the disposition towards criticism which was a credit to Cuban art in the eighties, but would do their utmost—and here lies the sense of division, of break-up—to explore new allegorical and aesthetic strategies in order to reach those ends.

This change in the representative attitude brought with it a number of pointers in attempting a brief description of the decade. For example, an immersion in national and international artistic heritage, without distinction of historical periods or canons became evident; there was an attempt to transform technical virtuosity, and the excellence of crafts, into an indispensable resource for metaphoric purpose. Codes and languages from emblematic periods such as the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Byzantine, and the Neo-classicist were recontextualised; old genres such as landscape, portrait and still life were imitated and explored. This exaltation of formal values reached highly sophisticated levels in the work of artists, such as Henry Eric, Osvaldo Yero, Geysel Capetillo, José, Ángel Vincench, and Kadir López. The work of Los Carpinteros particularly stands out. This group, to the amazement of the public and the critics, carried out an impressive revitalisation of the handicraft methods of traditional carpentry. In my opinion, the most substantial curatorial work regarding the revaluation of arts and crafts was made in 1995 with the exhibition 'El oficio del arte' [The Craft of Art] in which its curator, Dannys Montes de Oca, set out to restore the aesthetic paradigm as a social and commercial requirementI 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?

Other artists became involved in the revival of older methods such as engraving and photography, smoothly positioning themselves as enlightened artists thanks to their use of techniques and the emphasis on the self-reflective, when dealing with social situations. I could mention the photographers René Peña, Juan Carlos Alom, Ramón Pacheco, Manuel Piña, Carlos Garaicoa, Abigail González and Eduardo Hernández, and engravers Belkis Ayón, Ibrahim Miranda, Agustín Bejarano, Isary Paulet, Sandra Ramos and Abel Barroso. I was the curator for 'Vindicación del grabado' [Vindication of Engraving], at La Acacia Gallery in 1994, in which I showed the relationships amongst these young engravers, and the elements that distinguished them within the Cuban printing heritage.

Sculpture continued to flourish during the decade with installations, recurrence to popular images, and the use of ephemeral materials. To my mind, Alexis Leyva (Kcho), Fernando Rodríguez and Carlos Estévez would play a major role within this tendency. However, at the same time, sculpture would take an autonomous direction, reaching its full and purestI 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?

expression in the works of Esterio Segura, Rafael Gómez, William Pérez, Guillermo Ramírez Malberti and Julio Neira. The interesting thing about this is that, in the face of conventional assumptions about artistic practice, these three specialties were able to integrate an approach to technical mastery would no longer be, as in the old days, the reason for the exclusion or establishment of hierarchies, but values added to a modern cross disciplinary vision.

Design also took a qualitative step, especially poster production, and informational and environmental practices. The innovative technical solutions and procedures came, in most cases, from young graduates from the Industrial Design Institute (ISDI), around the middle of the first five years of the decade, with a maturity of style and interesting connections with the artistic effervescence of Cuban graphic design in the 1960s. A curious trend was the progressive move towards other creative areas, such as painting, installation, digital and audiovisual art. Pepe Menéndez, Roger Sospedra, Ernesto Díaz, Raúl Cordero, Luis Noa, Sandy Pozo, Eduardo Molto, Osmany Torres, and groups such as Ordo Amoris, Spam and Nudo, are some of the most significant examples of this experimentation in other creative mediums.

Humour and parody was also to reach elevated levels of intellectualisation in reopening questions on the insular identity and the historic link with the West. I am thinking of the works of José Armando Mariño, Douglas Pérez, Saidel Brito, Reinaldo Pagán, Franklin, Álvarez. A look into the ecumenical legacy of Catholicism would be another novel orientation regarding the religious theme, which had been directed mainly towards syncretic cults or the African-American heritage. Motivated by the development of this type of work, a direct consequence of the official policy of openness to the Christian faith, I organised a collective exhibition at La Acacia Gallery in 1995 entitled 'Parábolas litúrgicas' [Liturgical Parables], with the participation of several painters who represented this trend, including Ossain Raggui, Lisette Matalón, Sergio Díaz Amaral and Esterio Segura.

The presence of women in visual arts would become crucial during the nineties, especially in painting and installation. We would witness an almost archaeological examination of the female inner world, and the reconsideration of notions such as sensuality, glamour, faithfulness, innocence, authority and eroticism, in the light of paradoxical meanings and evocative connotations that they have acquired today. The female consciousness, assumed as a defining space of social and domestic issues, and as the scene for amendments and systematic reaffirmations, would be a recurrent element in the work of Elsa Mora, Aimeé García, Inés Garrido, Yasbel Pérez, Cirenaica Moreira, Lidzie Alviza and Aziyadé Ruiz.

Events of national importance, such as the Contemporary Cuban Art Exhibitions, the Engraving Meetings and the Prizes for Curators and Critics, all sponsored by the National Council of Visual Arts, also contributed significantly to clarify the thematic guidelines and to sort the levels of prominence within the art work, in accordance with art works and authors. Thanks to these events, a great number of artists from the provinces, some from very remote areas, were able to bring their work to the attention of the public and place their pieces in important galleries in the capital. Organised by the Wilfredo Lam Contemporary Art Centre, the Havana Art Biennial, in particular, would prove an exceptional opportunity for Cuban artists to subject their work to the international gaze, as well as to keep up with the latest trends of theoretical thought. In spite of the embargo, renowned curators and directors from famous galleries and museums around the world visited Havana during the nineties to witness and document the vast programme of activities conceived by the Biennial. We could even say that the prestige of a number of Cuban artists in the art scenes of Europe and the United States today, is due, to a large extent, to their previous recognition in this 'Third World' event.

I have emphasised a group of names, tendencies and events that enriched, both formally and thematically, the conceptual line of the nineties. However, I do not wish to leave out a group of figures from the eighties who continued to be influential. I am referring to Eduardo Ponjuán, whose work at the Art Institute received critical acclaim; to Lázaro Saavedra, initiator of another important pedagogical effort called ENEMA; to José, Ángel Toirac, who includes curatorial devices and regularly explores the cultural and social alternatives of the island; and to Tania BrugueraI 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?
, who was first known through her live performance art, of solid didactic proportions.

However, to say that the vigour and evolution of Cuban art in the nineties was only conceptual would be a serious mistake, repeating the reductionist and exclusionary view with which sometimes contemporary Cuban art is seen. This was undoubtedly a decade of convergence, a time when certain differences or antagonisms between generations began to ease, and in particular between the hedonistic and epic inclination of the seventies, and the critical, conceptual approach that was encouraged at the beginning of the eighties.

To be honest, I hadn't seen such different modes of expression converge in the same space for a long time; artists from the sixties, seventies and eighties sharing the same identical promotional fate. It is my opinion that this convergence was brought about by the re-evaluation of technical and aesthetic principles and their concrete immersion in a metaphorical approach, which increased our awareness of the potential of Cuban art not only for its formal efforts but also for its allegorical anticipations. 'Amistades Peligrosas' [Dangerous Liaisons], the collective exhibition organised by the art critic Rufo Caballero at the Visual Arts Development Centre in 1995, invited us to examine contemporary Cuban art and its interrelationship with metaphorI 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?
an 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?
becoming one of the most daring and integrating curatorial approaches of the decade.

the new signifiersI 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?

which can be appreciated today in the roads of Cuban art requires an analysis of the profound mechanisms of the stimulants of changeI 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?
, which in turn—and this is the paradox—reveal in greater depth certain social circumstances, expressed Rufo Caballero in his essay of curatorial argumentation.3

Yet, the gradual expansion of the art market, as a palliative against the economic crisis, would be the factor that would finally bring together different generations and methods.

During the first stage, from the mid eighties to the end of the decade, international collectors showed a marked interest in conceptual art, which was intensified with the removal and the decentralisation of institutional regulatory mechanisms. Gallery owners from Latin America, Europe and the United States, such as Nina Menocal, Ramis Barquet, Peter Ludwig and Alex Rosemberg, became the intermediaries for the insertion of Cuban art in the international market. Many artists who lived in Cuba continued throughout the nineties to comply with these people's demands and to the opportunities that they represented, while other artists began an independent search for commercial alternatives. In any case, it was individual effort that paved the way of commercial transcendence for Cuban art. José Bedia and Tomás Sánchez were artists who during those years went the farthest in their search for international recognition and glory, although other painters who had gained recognition in Cuba, such as Roberto Fabelo, Pedro Pablo Oliva and Nelson Domínguez, were already pushing to raise their prices at the auction houses of Christie's and Sotheby's.

In order to compensate for the imbalance of individual effort and to create more efficient control mechanisms, the Cuban Government, throughout the decade developed events and projects that favoured a plurality of influences and styles; for example, the reorganisation of the entire gallery system, the creation of new work groups which would stimulate - to different degrees—the spirit of debate, and the encouragement of participation in auctions and art fairs. Priority was given to promoting and selling works by acclaimed artists as well as attracting young artists who had been successful in the foreign market. But if something was lacking in this new initiative, it was that it eluded—and continues eluding—the launch of new figures, the investing in work of emerging artists, and, especially, creating a domestic compensatory market and a group of collectors. Perhaps this is one of the principal dilemmas handed down to the new century by the nineties: How can we develop our commercial proposals to respond to the quantitative and qualitative growth of Cuban art today? How can we reconcile the irregularities of that pragmatic, fluctuating world with the fierce defence of certain utopias?

Notes:
1 Collective exhibition at the Galería de Arte Internacional. Havana, Cuba. 1981. Participants: Flavio Garciandía, Tomás Sánchez, José Manuel Fors, José Bedia, Gustavo Pérez, Ricardo Rodríguez, Leandro Soto, Israel León, Juan Francisco Elso, Rubén Torres and Rogelio López Marín (Gory).

2 Words for the catalogue of the collective exhibition 'Las metáforas del templo' [The Metaphors of the Temple]. Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales. Havana, Cuba. 1993.

3 Words for the catalogue of the collective exhibition 'Relaciones peligrosas' [Dangerous Liaisons]. Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales. Havana, Cuba. 1995.

David Mateo Núñez
Matanzas, 5 May 1965
Journalist, art critic, curator and editor

Creator, together with artists Ernesto Leal and Manuel López Oliva, of Loquevenga [Whatever may Come], a hand-crafted book on visual arts. From 1996 to 1998, he was editor in chief of Artecubano magazine and the informational tabloid Noticias de Artecubano. He was also founder and editor of Dédalo, and art and literature magazine of the Asociación Hermanos Saíz (AHS). At present, he is art advisor for the UNEAC's La Gaceta de Cuba magazine.

He is the author of Incursión en el grabado cubano (1949-1997) [Incursion into Cuban Engraving (1949-1997)], Palabras en acecho [Lurking Words], and Arturo Montoto: trazos en la arena [Arturo Montoto: Strokes in the Sand], and has co-authored biographical books of artists Agustín Bejarano, Nelson Domínguez and Belkis Ayón.

His articles, reviews and interviews have been published in Cuban and international catalogues and magazines. He has lectured in Portugal, Chile , Venezuela, Italy and the United States. He has been the curator for a number of projects, including Vindicación del grabado [Vindication of Engraving] , Parábolas litúrgicas [Liturgical Parables], El trío de la seducción [The Trio of Seduction], Pintura de Cámara [Chamber painting], Borderline, Vigencia del paisaje [Validity of Landscape], among others.

He is a member of the International Art Critics Association; National Prize-winner for Curatorship, 2001; and Critics National Prize-winner Guy Pérez Cisneros, 2002. He was a member of the International Jury for the 9th La Joven Estampa Engraving Prize, sponsored by Casa de las Américas in 2007.

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