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The Cristo Salvador Gallery is a unique art gallery that opened a few years ago in an apartment located in the heart of El Vedado district in Havana, and which goes under the name of Cristo Salvador—Christ the Savior. This gallery is an alternative and independent exhibition and curatorial project, whose principal organizers are Jazmín Valdés, Otari Oliva, Julio C. Llópis and Marcel Márquez. Although the project is relatively young, without doubt one can already speak of a memory of this space, which has received a number of artists whose pieces continue to be disturbing and their positions before the act of creation, notable and necessary. To illustrate what has been happening, we will mention the interventions of Ezequiel Suarez, Jorge Luis Marrero, Alina Águila, Orestes Hernández, Abdel Hernández San Juan, Alexander González and Eduardo Zarza Guirola.
If we wish to talk about points in common between the pieces that these artists have been exhibiting at the Cristo Salvador Gallery, we must first comment on the presence of parody and a sarcastic spirit that goes back to the ancient questions of “who are we” and “where are we headed to”. The other quality that these artists exhibit, which seems to work almost as an urgency, is rebelling against the established mediums, and making the work appear as in a state of crisis, a characteristic that unquestionably motivates the viewer to get involved without thinking twice.
From September to November, 2012, the Cristo Salvador Gallery decided to host an interpretative activity under the name Parche rosa sucio—Dirty Pink Patch, conceived as a sample of the graffiti done in Havana. The exhibition was divided into five stages, and when we visited the gallery to have a chat with the organizers and some of the protagonists, they were in the third stage, which had been named Se partió la liga [The Rubber Band Broke]. Bewildered, we asked them why the title, but the graffiti artists chose silence as an answer, commenting only that everything had already been expressed on the walls.
And the walls were truly saturated with different ways of communicating, this time representing the poetics of Kaos, Gabo, Warmachine, Since, Missbrain, Abrocha, Yaimel and Senrot. Note that this exhibition refers in a certain way to a group phenomenon. Although its members have pursued individual paths, some are still active as graffiti artists, in close communion with the intensities and tensions that are generated around the urban areas they choose to express themselves.
We cannot but show surprise when we see the swarm of graffiti on the walls of several rooms. The challenge here is to retain its original intensity, the red hot memory that this popular art has accumulated throughout centuries, from ancient Rome to the most ruthless movements of today’s graffiti, which spreads like wildfire in the megacities of the planet, in a way expressing the almost always insatiable aspirations of freedom.
Most of the participants in Se partió la liga come from the field of design; thus, a sort of attractive clash is established between their professional occupation and the expressive force that accompanies them, and which they have deposited in the apartment/gallery, emerging from a seductive underground to the eager eyes—and often controversial—of the viewers.
Far from degrading the intention of this exhibition, the ambiguity between graffiti as such and what could be identified as mural painting enrich it, liberating in the minds of the viewers their opinions regarding graffiti.
For those of us Cubans who in the 1980s, at the height of our stories of youth, felt graffiti so close to our blood flows; when we were totally irrational lovers who spent long hours of the night surrounded by the graffiti walls of the monument to Jose Miguel Gomez on G Street, this new crusade of Havana’s graffiti revives our memories and stirs are nostalgic emotions, hoping that our children and grandchildren will also be able to enjoy the vitality that this ancient and spontaneous form of communication is capable of transmitting.