New York Artists Show in Cuba
By IRINA ECHARRY, photos: CARIDAD
HAVANA TIMES, May 4 – Art breaks down borders, smashes preconceptions of the past. It challenges antiquated ways, proposing shifts in the cultural approaches of two countries, the United States and Cuba, geographically close but at the same time so far apart.
Being exhibited in the universal art building of the Cuban National Museum of Fine Arts is a collection from 28 art galleries from the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. Some 40 pieces created by renowned artists include paintings, engravings, videos, and other forms of expression that explore a host of thematic and aesthetic avenues.
An image of a poodle, one of the most expensive breeds of dog to maintain, captures our attention. Its hair prevents you from seeing it, but as you get closer to this seemingly traditional, representative drawing, you discover that the image dissolves. Left in relief is an expressive tracing of handwritten text, a propagandistic report by the Bush administration. The dog, we find, represents the blindness of the rich in the face of poverty in the world.
Padraig Tarrant, with his work Castrobama, raises questions rather than gives answers. It presents profiles of Fidel Castro and Barak Obama, face to face. They are colored red, with the figures in positions that could imply confrontation and rivalry, or recognition and dialogue.
For the young viewer Abel Quesada, “The piece is a reflection of what is happening right now. Nobody knows what will happen under Obama. We all want the lifting of the blockade (the “embargo”), but who knows what will happen. If they eliminate it we’ll be friends, and if that doesn’t happen, we’ll continue being enemies forever.”
Nan Golding, a photographer since she was 15, who has contributed the theme of sexual dependence to the history of the photography for several years, presents an extensive display of more than 750 photos. She depicts individual stories of the lives of her friends and family. In Kath and Sara Embracing, she shows us two women lying in a bed, tenderly hugging each other, with the light of the sun above them.
“To me what I liked most is almost the smallest of all the pieces, but the most important,” said Yasmany Alarcon, referring to the work by Christoph Draeger that raises concern for the environment. In it, an oil tanker is inside a container of water that is contaminated with raw petroleum.
This real image of an oil spill makes an appeal to all oil importing countries to implement urgent measures to prevent such ecological disasters. It also urges humanity to move away from the violence and contamination that accompanies the black fuel.
Loretta Lux brings us imaginary portraits of children, which give the idea of childhood as a lost paradise. She does this through the effects of isolation and distance that change the images.
To Marina Abramovic art should be beautiful, and the artist should be beautiful. That theme is repeated again and again as she, on video, arranges her hair with a comb and brush. The piece is not about physical pain, but about mental states that can be painful. She combs herself aggressively, while her face shows she’s hurting herself.
People stop to look at the tape, and some step back with strange expressions on their faces. It’s clear that they don’t get the artist’s idea, that acting can be a technique used for transcending physical and mental limits. Or perhaps they are aware of this, but don’t like it or agree. What’s strange to some is a way of perceiving life to others.
The 10th Havana Art Biennial is for all sections of the public, art experts and ordinary people who want to know what’s going on. While most of the installations and showings ended at the end of April, the Chelsea show continues through May 17.
People will be able to sample what was “made in New York” without leaving the Cuban capital. For that reason alone, the event should be applauded.
Click on the thumbnails to see all the photos in this gallery