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Tuesday, 17 Sep 2019

CUBA UP TO THE ‘90s: a revolution of form and color

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Cuban art has surmounted times of lows and highs. The great artists of its past bestowed their strength and integrity on the new generations.
An art full of color and joy, despite some hard times. If truth were told, Cuban creativity somehow mirrors its experience as a nation. Although its history is, even more preterit, Cuban art began being marketed during the first decades of the 20th century. Before those times, artworks were funded by portrait painting implying an exclusive artist/client relationship, and by allegoric paintings that to a certain extent intertwined with education. In consequence, these artists had very few spaces for exhibiting their creations: Only a few official sites and the existing art schools.
The panorama changed with the stablishment of the Republic, and several cultural institutions. Cuban artists associated themselves to these latter ones in their defense from the foreign ones, who then were in vogue because foreign art beguilded the sugarcane nouveaux riches, who in view of their faint knowledge of cultural values used to buy artworks more for decorative reasons than for aesthetic pleasure.
The artistic panorama of Cuba improved to a certain degree thanks to the First Modern Art Gallery, where these artist/promotors sought to transform society from a cultural ambit. The Cuban masters of those days inspired themselves in the French impressionism and the nearby Mexican muralism. These two ingredients underpinned a profound Cuban and personal art. Worth of special mention are the forerunner of Cuban vanguard Rafael Blanco, and  Victor Manuel García, the author of the unforgettable Tropical Gypsy.
The sixties were a paradigm of artistic heterogeneity.  Thanks to the Cuban Revolution art continued being furthered, and serigraphy achieved significant results despite the scarceness of resources. One of the most outstanding serigraphers was Raúl Martínez, who later on ventured into pop art. On the other hand, the seventies marked the blossoming of drawing and engraving, represented, among others, by  Zaida del Río, Nelson Domínguez, Roberto Fabelo, Pedro Pablo Oliva and Eduardo Roca “Choco”. Worth of special mention as regards photorealism are also Tomás Sánchez, César Leal, Nélida López, Gilberto Frómeta, Aldo Menéndez and Flavio Garciandía.
According to a series of theorists, a third momentum in Cuban arts is the sweering to a flourishing process of the plastic arts. One of these theorists said that “on account of the penchant of this new generation of graduates of the Instituto Superior de Arte for whom art creation is the response to the questioning of motivations that is in tune with the times of desecularization of the arts”. In other words, installations, the ready made, and conceptual arts as well as the commonly named performances were revitalized.
The diversity continued in the 80’s and so did the critic, but with an additional ingredient of humor and irony, which had been absent in the previous years.  Cuban art carried on vigorously with the characterically Caribbean impetus. “Caribbean art ought to be viewed from the focal points of different contexts: yesterday with the protagonism of many of its figures, and the present one, perhaps because the creator’s sharp artistic conscience defies whatever is anecdoctic, descriptive and superficial; this where its strength and main interest are entrenched”, maintained a theorician of the Island.
77rf0Cuban art has surmounted times of lows and highs. The great artists of its past bestowed their strength and integrity on the new generations.
An art full of color and joy, despite some hard times. If truth were told, Cuban creativity somehow mirrors its experience as a nation. Although its history is, even more preterit, Cuban art began being marketed during the first decades of the 20th century. Before those times, artworks were funded by portrait painting implying an exclusive artist/client relationship, and by allegoric paintings that to a certain extent intertwined with education. In consequence, these artists had very few spaces for exhibiting their creations: Only a few official sites and the existing art schools.The panorama changed with the stablishment of the Republic, and several cultural institutions. Cuban artists associated themselves to these latter ones in their defense from the foreign ones, who then were in vogue because foreign art beguilded the sugarcane nouveaux riches, who in view of their faint knowledge of cultural values used to buy artworks more for decorative reasons than for aesthetic pleasure. The artistic panorama of Cuba improved to a certain degree thanks to the First Modern Art Gallery, where these artist/promotors sought to transform society from a cultural ambit. The Cuban masters of those days inspired themselves in the French impressionism and the nearby Mexican muralism. These two ingredients underpinned a profound Cuban and personal art. Worth of special mention are the forerunner of Cuban vanguard Rafael Blanco, and  Victor Manuel García, the author of the unforgettable Tropical Gypsy. 77rf1
The sixties were a paradigm of artistic heterogeneity.  Thanks to the Cuban Revolution art continued being furthered, and serigraphy achieved significant results despite the scarceness of resources. One of the most outstanding serigraphers was Raúl Martínez, who later on ventured into pop art. On the other hand, the seventies marked the blossoming of drawing and engraving, represented, among others, by  Zaida del Río, Nelson Domínguez, Roberto Fabelo, Pedro Pablo Oliva and Eduardo Roca “Choco”. Worth of special mention as regards photorealism are also Tomás Sánchez, César Leal, Nélida López, Gilberto Frómeta, Aldo Menéndez and Flavio Garciandía. 
According to a series of theorists, a third momentum in Cuban arts is the sweering to a flourishing process of the plastic arts. One of these theorists said that “on account of the penchant of this new generation of graduates of the Instituto Superior de Arte for whom art creation is the response to the questioning of motivations that is in tune with the times of desecularization of the arts”. In other words, installations, the ready made, and conceptual arts as well as the commonly named performances were revitalized. 
77rf2The diversity continued in the 80’s and so did the critic, but with an additional ingredient of humor and irony, which had been absent in the previous years.  Cuban art carried on vigorously with the characterically Caribbean impetus. “Caribbean art ought to be viewed from the focal points of different contexts: yesterday with the protagonism of many of its figures, and the present one, perhaps because the creator’s sharp artistic conscience defies whatever is anecdoctic, descriptive and superficial; this where its strength and main interest are entrenched”, maintained a theorician of the Island.

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