Saturday, June 2, 2012

Most Important Works of Cuban Modern Painting Part.1

This blog was inspired by my visit to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana this past week. After a Cuban Art class, and my thesis on the subject, I have gathered a list of the most notable works in the canon of Cuba's Modern Art.

The Vanguardia Generation

      Born  with the Cuban republic of 1902, the Vanguardia generation grew up with the responsibility of constructing a national identity. Their search for the new led them to rejected traditional artistic practices and adopt European modernism, which they later fused with local forms and color. Although not organized under a manifesto or leading figure, the Vanguardia artists shared a common interest and education in modernism, allowing them to developed unique styles and a particular image of the nation. The following are key works representing the time period.

Victor Manuel, Gitana Tropical, 1928

      After his return from Paris in 1927, Victor Manuel presented one of the first manifestations of modern painting in Cuba. His most notable work, today in the Museum of Bellas Artes, is Gitana Tropical ( seen above ) painted in 1928. Victor Manuel brings the Parisian School to Cuba. He draws influence from post-impressionism, that of Gauguin and Cezanne. This is evident in his contour line, solid color fields and primitivism. The model presents similarities to that of Gauguin's Tahiti women.  His figure is quite intriguing,  he painted the mixture of a taino women and a mulata whose gazes trespasses the viewer into a location behind him or her.

Eduardo Abela, Guajiros, 1928


      Another notable work from the same year is Abela's Guajiros (1928). Besides the European modern practices, the Mexican muralist's provided Abela with plenty of techniques to paint the figures in this work. Here Abela works within the subject of  costumbrismo( the tradition and life of the guajiro ). This subject was also used a medium of identity for his art and Cuba of the country side.       

Pogolotti, Cuban Landscape , 1933.
       Following the socio/political turmoil of 1933 and the fall of Machado's government, artists turned to the subject of social protest. One of the most renowned was Pogolotti with his work Cuban Landscape of 1933. This work presents the viewer with different planes that connect to explain the Cuba of 1933. In that same year, strikes in the countryside became massive, and Machado sent the army to supervise the sugarcane plantations, this is shown in the foreground and middle-ground. On the left side, ships transport the sugar to the United States( shown by the tall metropolis in the background). On the upper register one finds the wealthy capitalists and their business contracts which control the island. Lastly, the American War Ships on the upper right aim their cannons at Cuba in fear of losing the islands economic wealth to social turmoil. An economic wealth which 60% was owned by Americans.

         Mainly a portrait painter, Jorge Arche presented a picture of Martí (1940) that would become iconic in the representation of the martyr.  Martí is presented  in a divine pose often used to depict Christ. The white shirt was also an attribute of Christ and adds a peaceful sentiment to the heroes' presence over the Cuban landscape. Unlike many of his modern contemporaries, Arche worked with detail and academic painting. His mastery of the brush is shown in the foreshorten right hand of Martí that grabs the edge of the canvas. Arches realism really cultivates the viewer and connects him or her with Martí.

       Synthesizing three different themes of Cuban Art( Criollismo, landscape and the Afro-Cubans), Carlos Enríquez presented one of the more dynamic and complex representation of Cuba in his painting El rapto de las mulatas, 1938. Filled with energy and color Enríquez paints the mist of a abduction scene where the victims seems to be seduced rather than force by their masculine perpetrators. Enríquez identified himself with the fierce bandits who seem to seduce the mulatto women with their aggressive behavior. The composition of the work refers to that of The Rape of the Daughter of Lucippus  by Rubens. Further, the state of ecstasy of the figure on the left could be associated with The Ecstasy of St. Teresa by Bernini. Enríquez sexuality, agitated landscape, and transparency accompanied him for the rest of his artistic career.