Cuban Art

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Movements in the Art Scene

Museo National de Bellas Arte Havana Cuba

Museo Nacional de Bellas Arte - Havana

Cuban artists reflect the diversity of their culture. There are 21 art schools organized regionally with at least one per province in Cuba today. The Cuban Cultural Fund has aided newly graduated artists with the advertising and staging of their work for a number of years. It also assists with arranging gallery showings, and it offers cataloging services, shipping and transportation.

The Cuban people started entertaining nationalist ideas in literature, art, and music during the 19th century. Romanticism, a creative and literary movement stressing freedom of expression and a dependence on imagination, first appeared in Cuba in the early 19th century with the early poetry of José María de Heredia. Modernism coincided with romanticism at the end of the 20th century and ultimately replaced it in the 20th century.

Art in Cuba mirrors the challenges unique to the island nation, from multihued, naïve explorations of its urban areas and countryside to sarcastic installations offering interpretations of consumerism and a restrictive government. The latest generation of Cuban artists uses its work to explore arte con la vida (art together with daily life).

"Cubans learn the tragic potential of life much younger than most, and it is reflected in their art," observed Marilyn Zeitman, director and chief Curator at ASU Art Museum at the Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University in Tempe. Holliey White, founder of Arts Amica, an organization committed to helping artists get publicity out of Cuba, says not many galleries are willing to undergo the logistics required to get hold of work from the island nation. White started the organization in 1996 after a humanitarian aid trip to Cuba exposed her to the hardships Cuban artists come across in trying to find an American audience.

With the Bush administration's recent crackdown on travel to the island, art-collecting trips have now become a thing of the past. Lennox Campello, who represents Sandra Ramos and other Cuban artists as co-owner of Fraser Gallery, notes that the Cuban Government allows some artists to leave the country to sell their work, and Cuban artists may mail works to the United States.

Most of the artwork for sale to tourists is government sponsored and mass-produced. You can purchase high-dollar art at several galleries, however, including the two-level gallery at the Casa de Carmen Montilla, which features an open-air sculpture garden and a 3-D art mural by Alfredo Sosabravo. A large collection of paintings by Cuban artists from the eighteenth century to present is on display at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Habana Vieja.

Cuban Paintings

Cuban Self-Taught Art

Philadelphia-based Indigo Arts exhibits the work of a wide range of Cuban artists, most of them self-taught. Their collection includes works by old masters such as Ruperto Jay Matamoros from Havana and the feisty "primitivista" painter Abel Perez Mainegra from the historic colonial town of Trinidad. It gives particular emphasis to the work of artists from the southern Cuban city of Cienfuegos, including Fito (Adolfo Flores Gonzales), Arnaldo Garcia Rodriguez, José Garcia Montebravo, Jorge Sanfiel and Wayacon (Julian Espinosa).

José Montebravo

Jose de Jesus Garcia Montebravo was born on October 15, 1953, in Cienfuegos, where he still lives, on the south coast of Cuba, about four hours by car from Havana. He is self-taught and therefore can be called a folk or intuitive artist. Montebravo has been painting since he was quite young but only in a serious way since 1980. His most recent works move into fantasies where people and animals are blended with circus and folkloric elements.

Wilfredo Lam

In the fall of 1979 Sotheby's sold a 1943 oil by Wilfredo Lam for $104,500 – a breakthrough that turned into a trend in 1984, when no fewer than 58 Lams were sold by Christie's and Sotheby's, with the top price climbing from $198,000 to $214,000 between the spring and fall sales. The escalation hasn't stopped. In May 1997 another 1943 oil, La Mañana Verde sold at Sotheby's for $1,267,500, about 12 times the price of a comparable work two decades ago.

Miguel Cerejido

Born in Havana on February 26, 1960, is a Canada-based Cuban artist. He graduated from the Academy of Plastic Arts (San Alejandro) in 1980. His explorations in painting have always dealt with the possible nexuses between painting and music and ways of pictorially representing sound and silence. His work has gone through different stages from attempts to illustration of specific musical work to explorations of aspects of the musical structure itself.

Cuban Folk Art Meets International Pop Art

Increasingly artists in remote places will be discovering how to bridge the gap between their own societies and the international art world if globalization changes the scene of modern art the way some people think it will. A youthful Cuban artist who just might be on the verge of an international career, Alberto Casado, is a fascinating example. His striking imitation folk-art paintings on glass were included in the 2003 Istanbul biennial, and last year Art in General, the alternative nonprofit gallery in Lower Manhattan, presented "Alberto Casado: Todo Clandestino, Todo Popular," his second solo exhibition.

The Fraser Gallery of Bethesda, Maryland hosted a show titled Cuban Artists: Three Generations in 2004, which included new works by Sandra Ramos and Jacqueline Zerquera Tejedor, as well as works from the Estate of Carlos Alfonso. These artists represent three generations of Cuban contemporary artists. Alfonso is looked upon as one of the most important Cuban artists in recent years, while Ramos is undeniably the most talked-about and one of the most collected contemporary Cuban artists alive today. Zerquera is a very respected Havana artist who is now emerging on the international scene.

Cernuda Arte, a white and blue gallery dedicated to Cuban artworks, is located in the heart of Coral Gables, FL. They display works from Colonial, Vanguard, Modern and Contemporary artists. Showcasing artists from each style and time period, the exhibit gives any art enthusiast a sense of history as the paintings are viewed, showing the development and varied style of Cuban art.

Volume I – 1981

A controversial exhibition in 1981 placed 11 young artists on the map, set the course for contemporary Cuban art, and created an identity for a new generation of artists. It was called Volume I because they planned to organize other group exhibitions, but that never happened. The friends soon scattered across the globe, entering a competitive art market that, along with distance, strained relationships.

Religion and Contemporary Art

The Palo Monte religion provides the basis and inspiration for artistic production in many ways. Ludvik Reginfo Perez is a Palo Monte practitioner with no studio training in art. His altar-assemblages are primarily intended for private ritual and ceremony, although he also creates some paintings on cloth for sale. Another artist and Palo Monte practitioner is Jose Bedia, who holds the Cuban equivalent of a Master of Fine Arts.

Video Art

Five-year-old Elian Gonzales became the center of an international argument in 1999. His mother had drowned in an effort to leave Cuba, and little Elian was rescued only to become the center of a tug-of-war over whether he should be given permanent status in the United States or returned to his father in Cuba. During a residency at Arizona State University, Cuban artists José Angel Toirac and Meira Marrero worked with American artist Patricia Clark to make La Edad de Oro (The Golden Age), a video triptych that puts together American and Cuban reporting of the day by day vicissitudes of the child's life.

Cuban Poster Art

Written with unprecedented access to Cuban National Archives, ¡Revolución! Cuban Poster Art by Lincoln Cushing brings together almost 150 of these commanding but little-seen works of popular art. The posters united the Cuban people to the enormous undertaking of building a new society from the 1960s through the 1980s, encouraging colossal sugar harvests and national literacy crusades, went up against the US war in Vietnam, and celebrated film, music, dance and baseball with a unique graphic wit and colorful style.

¡Revolución!

Cuban Poster Art is an embodiment of the beauty of solidarity, revolution and education. The posters’ impact doesn’t end with the messages they send. They tell the story not only of the revolutionary upsurge in Cuba, but in the world. This book touches upon the distinctiveness of the art created in socialist Cuba in contrast to art that has been produced by other countries, using the former Soviet Union and China as examples.

Cuban Architecture

Cuba's architectural variety makes it the perfect place to arouse your visual senses while learning about the country's history through its buildings. Old Havana is 500 years old and has a wealth of churches, squares, mansions, and even a fortress to explore. There you can visit the 17th century Santa Clara Convent, base of the National Center of Restoration and Museums.

Cuban National Ballet

Is one of the finest ballet companies in the world and still led by the 84 old prima ballerina Alicia Alonsa. Performances are given in the Gran Teatro de la Habana located at the Parque Central square. Ballet is popular in Cuba. The Cuban National Ballet School founded in 1931 is the biggest ballet school in the world.


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