Art Exhibition: “Índice de imágenes” by José Manuel Mesías 


In “Close-Up: Índice de imágenes at Factoría Habana,” Cuban Art News reviews the work of Cuban artist José Manuel Mesías, saying that the artist uses history, myth, botany, and taxidermy, to rethink Cuba’s wars of independence. His exhibition “Índice de imágenes” is on view at Factoría Habana through October 20, 2017. Factoría Habana is located at 308 O´Reilly Street, between Habana and Aguiar (Habana Vieja), Havana, Cuba. Here are excerpts:

For José Manuel Mesías, history is the raw material of art, and much more. Filling two floors of Factoría Habana, his current show turns the genre of history painting to distinctly untraditional ends. While some artists turn their attention to universal themes, Mesías delves deeply into the visual representation of Cuban history and its metaphors.

Re-examining revered legends and historical facts, he exercises a certain scientific curiosity and an eye for odd artifacts. The result is a post-modern cabinet of curiosities, and an alternate reading of the nation’s 19th-century past, especially the wars of independence.

Even viewers who are not familiar with the episodes Mesías examines are likely to find parallels with contemporary culture and how history and facts are interpreted. [. . .]

In one of the largest works in the exhibition, Mesías examines a 1908 painting by Armando García Menocal, La muerte de Antonio Maceo. Menocal’s painting depicts the death in battle of Maceo, the second-in-command of the Cuban Army of Independence, in 1896.

According to historian Antonio Álvarez Pittaluga (in his 2012 essay “The Fall of a Hero and the Kidnapping of a Myth“), Menocal’s canvas shows the instant of Maceo’s death, as his followers struggle to remove his inert body from the field of battle.

Following Pittaluga’s analysis, Mesías breaks this down into a four-part sequence: 1) Maceo is wounded and falls from his horse; 2) a small group surrounds him, stupefied by the reality of his death; 3) the attempt to remove his body from the battlefield (which is the subject of Menocal’s painting); and 4) the rescue of his body, along with the body of his compatriot, Francisco Gómez Toro.

In addition to the four studies, Mesías painted the large-scale Corrections to the work of Armando Menocal ‘La muerte de Maceo.’

Dreams and visions also play a part in Mesías’s scenario. Here, he paints four versions of Maceo’s death as dreamed by Manuel Piedra, another commander in the Cuban War of Independence. [. . .]

For full article and photos of Mesías’s work, see

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