“On the Horizon”: Cuban Artists on Both Sides of the Strait

Pina,_Manuel._Untitled,_from_the_series_Aguas_Baldias_-_2_of_10

Janet Batet Miami-based Cuban independent curator, art critic, and essayist—reviews “On the Horizon: Contemporary Cuban Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection,” which is on view at the Pérez Miami Art Museum (PAMM). Organized by PAMM Chief Curator Tobias Ostrander, this exhibition opened on June 8, 2017, and runs through April 8, 2018. [Also see Art Exhibition: “On the Horizon” Contemporary Cuban Art.] Batet writes: “Calligraphic bricks, gunshot sunflowers, and an underwater scream set up a dialogue at PAMM.” Here are excerpts of this excellent review; see full article at Cuban Art News:

The horizon, that tangible ideal plane, palpable promise and infinite utopia, always within reach of the eyes, is perhaps the most accurate mirage. Perhaps it is also the most effective metaphor for contemporary Cuban society, marked by more than half a century of unfulfilled promises and utopias that have devolved into deception and cynicism.

With this trope as a starting point, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) presents On the Horizon: Contemporary Cuban Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection. Comprising more than 170 works by contemporary Cuban artists living in and beyond the island, the exhibition is structured around the notion of the horizon. It serves as a guiding principle for the three-part show, organized under specific themes—Internal Landscapes, Abstracting History, and Domestic Anxieties—that follow each other in three three-month cycles, closing in April 2018.

[. . .] Among these exhibition works situated around the museum are Fire (America) 5, 2017, by Teresita Fernández, and Untitled (2/10) and Untitled (4/10), from the series Aguas baldías, 1992–1994, by Manuel Piña.

In Fire (America) 5, specifically, we witness a work that represents the universe of this artist, who is interested in the psychological relationship associated with the elements of water, earth, air and fire. Here, the night skyline, embraced in flames, is constructed from an exquisite mosaic of glazed ceramics. Deprived of the companion work, Nocturnal Landscape engulfed in Flames, which was its perfect complement in the artist’s most recent show at Lehmann Maupin Gallery, Fire (America) 5 loses much of its dramatic and immersive character, definitively reducing its impact on the viewer.

Piñas’s two untitled photographs function effectively as a prelude to Internal Landscapes. His outstanding photo essay was made in Havana during the critical years between 1992 and 1994, which were bookended by two vital events: the declaration of the Special Period in Times of Peace in December 1991, and the massive departure of the balseros in the summer of 1994, which became known as el maleconazo. Piñas’s work effectively records the sentiment of Cubans during that period, in which all hopes and even daily survival were pinned beyond the sea.

Just before entering the exhibition, two paintings offer contradictory interpretations on either side of the horizon: Summer / Verano, 2007, by Enrique Martínez Celaya and Island (See-scape), 2010, by Yoan Capote. In both cases we see wild landscapes in which the individual, present or not, is confronted with a limited situation. Both works, marked by lived experience, reflect the existential drama that characterizes contemporary Cuban identity, weighed down by inner upheaval and renunciation. Like mirror images, these works capture the migratory condition of the contemporary Cuban drama through two opposing faces: exile and confinement. [. . .]

[Photograph above: Manuel Piña, “Untitled (2/10)”, from the series Aguas baldías, 1992–1994.]

For full review, see http://www.cubanartnews.org/news/on-the-horizon-cuban-artists-on-both-sides-of-the-strait/6240

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