Next week, the Coral Gables Art Museum opens “Between the Real and the Imagined: Abstract Art from CINTAS Fellows,” with a VIP reception next Wednesday evening, August 30, 6:00-9:00pm, followed by a public reception on Friday evening, September 1, 6:00-10:00pm. The exhibition runs from August 31 to October 22, 2017. The exhibition, which includes work by 27 artists, drawn from the CINTAS collection and other holdings, is organized by Elizabeth Cerejido—independent curator, PhD candidate in art history, and director of the Dialogues in Cuban Art program.
Cuban Art News published a conversation with curator Elizabeth Cerejido on the exhibition, the thought behind it, and “what makes the CINTAS collection unique in Cuban art.” Here are excerpts of ‘Abstract Art, CINTAS Fellows, and “A Curatorial Gambit”’:
How did you decide to focus on abstraction?
It was a theme that would allow me to zero in on a limited number of works and create a framework from which to curate—especially given the time and spatial constraints under which this project has been organized. On that note—this is not a show that aims to make a sweeping claim about abstraction in Cuban art. That is a subject that’s too broad and encompassing to address under the limitations of the show. Instead, this exhibition is more an exploration about the language of abstraction within the very specific boundaries of the work of CINTAS Fellows.
My approach was to ask the question, and then try to create a narrative or set of narratives around a group of very disparate works by artists from across different generations, aesthetic concerns, and artistic practices. So, call it a curatorial gambit/exercise, if you will. Many of these artists, particularly the contemporary Fellows, do not set out to create “abstract” works.
How would you describe the position of abstraction in the broader evolution of Cuban art?
Modern Cuban art from the first half of the 20th century was dominated by the two generations of painters known as the vanguardia. Broadly speaking, they embraced figuration or some form of representational language that was also fitting for their underlying nationalist purpose.
By the late 1940s and certainly into the 1950s, that visuality and function had become bankrupt. This is why an artist like Mario Carreño (a CINTAS Fellow), while part of the second generation of vanguardia painters, began to explore the language of abstraction. Not only for its aesthetic and structural import but also as a response to the hegemony of the Cuba-centric idioms present in the vanguard generations of the 1920s and 1940s (the second of which he was a part). He can be considered a transitional figure. That exploration led to the founding of groups such as Los Once (The Eleven) and Los Diez Pintores Concretos (The Ten Concrete Painters), who reclaimed modern Cuban art from those aesthetic concerns. While their impact has been successfully argued in the work of recent scholars, they were short-lived. After the revolution in 1959, abstraction became equated with bourgeois tastes, among other things, which ran counter to the cultural politics of the revolution.
Contemporary art from Cuba has few examples of artists working in an abstract vein. Artists in the diaspora, however, particularly those who left Cuba as adults–Rafael Soriano, Agustin Fernandez, Baruj Salinas, etc.–continued to develop their own distinct language in abstraction. Soriano and Carreño, interestingly, abandoned the structural concerns of Concrete art in search of a more personal language. Carreño returned to figuration, albeit with a surrealist twist. [. . .]
[Image above: Rafael Soriano, Motivos del mar, 1953; Courtesy CINTAS Fellows Collection.]