In “EYE ON ART: Graphic Arts at MoLAA,” Nancy Berkoff (The Grunion) writes about a current exhibition at the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA), located at 628 Alamitos Avenue in Long Beach, California. The exhibition—“La huella múltiple”—brings together graphic works produced in Cuba. As Berkoff points out, besides examples of traditional printmaking, the artists incorporate photography, performance, installations and other media with their print production.
[. . .] The current Museum of Latin American Art show consists of works selected from the catalog of the 1999 La Huella Múltiple, part of the MoLAA permanent collection. The show’s 54 prints are produced with different techniques, themes and styles, from abstraction to representation.
La Huella Múltiple, launched in 1996 by artists Sandra Ramos, Belkis Ayón and Abel Barroso, is an art event that takes place periodically in Havana. Artists from different generations and using different media have participated. The show was originally curated, organized, and financed by the Cuban artists themselves with the support of foreign sponsors and the collaboration of the Ludwig Foundation, el Consejo Nacional de las Artes Plásticas, the Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, and the Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales of Havana, Cuba among many others.
“Huella” refers to a mark you leave behind to show you were there, like a thumb leaves an “imprint” on a piece of glass. Huella can also mean a mark, trace, track, trail, sign or impression. At the entrance of the show, there is an extended quote from Orlando Hernandez, curator of the 1999 La Huella Múltiple, “everything around us is covered in imprints, marks or impressions. We can say that life is a sequence of marks, much as is seen in the assembled works here.”
The MoLAA show provides insight into varied techniques used in Cuban graphics. The artists, born from the mid-1950s through the 1970s, developed different approaches to printmaking, from the highly conceptual and social, to those that stress experimentation with processes. Prints in the show incorporate printmaking with watercolor, aqua tint, linocut, photo screen, metal burn and screen print. The viewer is impressed with art made from limited resources but abundant imagination.
Some of the prints demonstrate the artist’s printmaking ability and technique, such as Kelvin Lopez Nieve’s “Alia/There,” a print comprised of fonts and numbers or Jose Vinchench Barrera’s “Limpieza con Wim Delvoye/Cleaning with Wim Delvoye,” a print that brings to mind a smudged botanical. The work of Juan Carlos Rivero has contextual references, appearing to concentrate on historical analysis of Cuba’s national historical figures and symbols. This also seems to be true with the work of Sandra Ramos, with historical and social themes and the way in which these affect the individual.
The first print on display in the show is “Autorretrato Digital/ Digital Self Portrait,” a photo screen print on paper by Lazaro Saavedra Gonzalez. Saavedra-Gonzalez is well-known to Cuban and international art audiences. During his career he has been a professor of painting at the Faculty of Artistic Education of the Higher Pedagogical Institute. In 2014 he was awarded the National Prize for Plastic Arts, the highest Cuban recognition for creators of visual arts. The print selected for the MoLAA show starts out with a typical portrait pose. However, the sitter’s head and face are replaced by a large fingerprint. Quite an impact to incorporate a “huella” a mark, a fingerprint in this case, to use as the subject’s main identity.
[Image above: “Self Portrait” by Lázaro Saavedra González.]