Fash­ion is art

Cuban artists paint gar­ments, not can­vases for new show

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE -

Afan­tas­ti­cal blue bird emerges from leaves in the lat­est work by Manuel Men­dive, con­sid­ered Cuba’s top liv­ing artist. But this isn’t a framed can­vas, it’s a paint­ing on a dress, for the ex­hibit Fash­ion Art Ha

vana that opened on Tues­day. In cre­ations by other Cuban artists, a ghostly face seems to scream out from a dark cape, a red and blue ma­tryoshka doll is painted onto a dress, while a bub­ble-shaped frock is cov­ered with wooden spikes. The show is the lat­est in the Fash­ion Art se­ries by Span­ish de­signer Manuel Fer­nan­dez, who has worked with artists all over the world to cre­ate one-off gar­ments at the in­ter­sec­tion of both dis­ci­plines.

“Art doesn’t have to al­ways be hung on walls, it could also be on floor tiles, ear­rings, tights or many other places,” Fer­nan­dez said in an in­ter­view.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing artists said at the open­ing they had high hopes the ex­hibit would help fash­ion be­come viewed in Com­mu­nistruled Cuba as more than a mere con­sumerist in­dul­gence.

“Fash­ion is also art, and this is a con­cept we need to start un­der­stand­ing here,” said Jorge Peru­gor­ría, who painted a graphic black and white de­sign on his dress.

Fer­nan­dez said he first de­signs a gar­ment for an artist, let­ting their work and per­son­al­ity in­spire the form. He leaves the fab­ric blank though, like a can­vas for them to then paint.

Given that he lets the artists paint what­ever they wish, he has no idea what his shows will look like un­til the very last minute – a nail-bit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

In the case of Fash­ion Art Ha­vana, which will run in Ha­vana’s sump­tu­ous, neo-baroque Gran Teatro un­til Fe­bru­ary 11, Fer­nan­dez said he was struck with how two painters ended up draw­ing on Rus­sian themes. This tes­ti­fied to the strong in­flu­ence the Soviet Union had on Cuba dur­ing their Cold War al­liance, some­thing you would not find in other Latin Amer­i­can cul­tures.

Ed­uardo Abela, son of the Cuban artist of the same name, daubed a ma­tryoshka doll onto his dress, while Gus­tavo Echevar­ría, known as “Cuty,” stained his scar­let, then painted com­mu­nist sym­bols like a ham­mer and sickle on it.

“Cuba re­mains a Com­mu­nist coun­try, yet at the same there is the sen­su­al­ity of the dress and the con­sumerism of the de­signs – there is a con­tra­dic­tion there that in this case co­ex­ist per­fectly,” Cuty said.

With this show, Fer­nan­dez said he de­cided to jux­ta­pose the new Cuban cre­ations with works from pre­vi­ous col­lec­tions by Puerto Ri­can and Span­ish artists like An­to­nio Mar­torell and Rafael Canogar.

Since em­bark­ing on his Fash­ion Art project in 1998, he has worked with 300 artists world­wide with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on Latin Amer­ica although his next ex­hibit will be in Zim­babwe, in May. His long-term aim is to cre­ate a mu­seum for his col­lec­tion, cur­rently stored be­tween Spain and Panama.

Photo: IC

A model wear­ing a de­sign by Span­ish de­signer Manuel Fer­nan­dez and painted by Cuban artists poses dur­ing a photo ses­sion in the Ali­cia Alonso theater in Ha­vana, Cuba, on Jan­uary 27.

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