Art On Cuba - - Index -

I shall be­gin by high­light­ing that most of the Cuban artists in the ex­hi­bi­tion Artists in pur­ga­tory: Cuban Artists in the Rey­nar­dus Col­lec­tion, presently live in Miami, the rea­son why that city was se­lected to venue the ex­hi­bi­tion, to­gether with the pre­sen­ta­tion of the equally en­ti­tled book, that gath­ers the tra­jec­tory of the col­lec­tion and the cre­ators in and out­side Cuba, be­fore and af­ter, also in­clud­ing artists that live in other lat­i­tudes. This has been pos­si­ble thanks to the Ken­dall Art Cen­ter (KAC), a Miami in­sti­tu­tion that emerged from the per­sonal col­lec­tion of its founder Leonardo Ro­dríguez, who made avail­able to Mr. Jorge Rey­nar­dus the mod­ern and wide halls of this fa­cil­ity, that has be­come a ref­er­ence as one of the most vis­ited spa­ces for those who love Cuban plas­tic arts.

This col­lec­tion emerged in re­cent decades, when Rey­nar­dus was a suc­cess­ful New York pub­li­cist, wit­ness­ing the hard time of many of his com­pa­tri­ots seek­ing new hori­zons in the United States. He had ex­pe­ri­enced the dif­fi­cul­ties of this ex­o­dus; born in Panama, raised in Cuba, he over­came an in­fin­ity of ob­sta­cles un­til he grad­u­ated from Har­vard. Aware of his civic com­mit­ment and his abil­ity to help, he started pur­chas­ing prod­ucts from his com­pa­tri­ots—he con­sid­ers him­self 100% Cuban—first as a pal­lia­tive and ad­ver­tise­ment, un­til be­com­ing a pas­sion. Car­los Cár­de­nas, born in Pi­nar del Río, sup­ported the con­sol­i­da­tion of this col­lec­tion, some­one who knew well what it was like to be stuck in limbo, lone­some in a stu­dio Union City, when the cold tem­per­a­tures are most se­vere in New Jer­sey and the Big Ap­ple.

Car­los Cár­de­nas in­tro­duced Rey­nar­dus and the artist and writer Aldo Menén­dez, who led him to the work of new can­di­dates that ended up in his com­pi­la­tion. Like­wise, Menén­dez put to­gether the book, now pub­lished in English by Ar­tium Pub­lish­ing. This work of ad­ver­tise­ment is part of the work of The Cuban Art Al­liance, a per­ma­nent sup­port in­sti­tu­tion cre­ated by Rey­nar­dus led by artist Rubén Men­doza.

The ex­hi­bi­tion shows only part of the col­lec­tion, but in the book, we can see a re­pro­duc­tion of all pieces: paint­ings, sculp­tures and pho­to­graphs. Newly at­tained pieces will ap­pear in the ver­sion pub­lished in Span­ish

It is a lux­u­ri­ous vol­ume, in­clud­ing 342 pages of es­says con­ceived from dif­fer­en­ti­ated views and cri­te­ria, some­times coun­ter­poised, with new the­sis and polemics from well know crit­ics and gallery own­ers: Ri­cardo Pau–Llosa, Janet Batet, Ger­ardo Mos­quera, Nina Meno­cal, Den­nys Matos and Aldo Menén­dez. The book in­cludes an anal­y­sis of five Cuban artists in­ter­viewed by the aca­demi­cian from Michi­gan Univer­sity and so­ci­ol­o­gist Sil­via Pe­draza about the process of leav­ing Cuba and adapt­ing to a dif­fer­ent cul­ture. All ar­ti­cles are il­lus­trated with pic­tures and new ma­te­ri­als of great his­toric value, pro­vided by the artists.

The vol­ume in­cludes a step–by–step in­tro­duc­tory es­say about this project he de­votes all his en­ergy and re­sources to, since re­tir­ing. On the sleeve cov­er­ing the vol­ume, on the front and back cove,r we find an at­trac­tive land­scape cre­ated by Car­los Cár­de­nas, and some phrases ex­tracted from the pro­logue, signed by the fa­mous Hol­ly­wood scriptwriter and Pulitzer win­ner, Wil­liam Kennedy, an ex­pert on Cuba, and who had his novel Roscoe pub­lished by the Edi­to­rial Artes y Le­tras pub­lish­ing house in 2002. About the book, Kennedy writes: “Artists in Pur­ga­tory, con­tains the work of more than 60 Cuban artists, who at the be­gin­ning of 1989 aban­doned the is­land of Cuba, but not Cuba”. For many of them, Cuba is still an ob­ses­sion and their Cuban iden­tity is made pub­lic and no­to­ri­ous in their daily lives, in this dis­tance.

The se­lec­tion of au­thors is of high qual­ity and very rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the list of artists that emerged from the 70s and the 80s, as they ap­praise ex­cel­lent paint­ings, with the in­di­vid­ual styles of: Car­los Cár­de­nas, Be­dia, Julio An­to­nio, Aldo Menén­dez, Rubén Llorca, Gory, Cuenca, Magdalena Campos, Gustavo Acosta, Ana Al­bertina, Se­gundo Planes, Aldito Menén­dez, Adri­ano Buergo, Of­fil Echevar­ria, Juan–si, Ileana Vil­lazón, Marta María, Fer­nando Gar­cía, Ciro Quin­tana, Con­suelo Cas­tañeda, Viz­caíno, To­mas Es­son and José Franco. In my opin­ion, the works from Glexis, Flavio and Le­an­dro Soto are not as rep­re­sen­ta­tive, I look for the crit­i­cal and pow­er­ful work they did dur­ing the 80s, but I can­not find it. Like­wise, other artists like Ro­dríguez Brey, liv­ing in Bel­gium, and Pérez Monzón in Méx­ico should be in­cluded in this group.

Per­haps I am be­ing too de­mand­ing of an en­deavor that has achieved so much in so few years, start­ing with Rey­nar­dus and some col­lab­o­ra­tors, but my opin­ions can al­ways gen­er­ate healthy re­con­sid­er­a­tions. In the clus­ter from the 90s, the best ac­qui­si­tions come from Car­los Luna, Car­los Estévez, Nés­tor Are­nas, Pe­dro Ál­varez, Armando Mar­iño, Ivonne Fer­rer, Elsa Mora, Pa­yares and Rafael López Ramos. It is ur­gent to cor­rect the pres­ence of San­dra Ramos, Án­gel Del­gado and Ro­valdo Ro­dríguez, try­ing to find works of a higher rel­e­vance, though the ones in­cluded are quite good, and to rec­tify the ab­sence of Ge­labert, Garaicoa and Ar­rechea. Of the re­cently in­cor­po­rated, the best are Car­los San­jurjo, Adrián Menén­dez and Clara Rey­nar­dus.

We miss the names of masters like Ana Mendi­eta, Hugo Con­sue­gra, Gina Pel­lon, Jorge Ca­ma­cho, José Mi­jares and Rafael So­ri­ano, just to men­tion some in­dis­pens­able ones. Re­gard­ing my view of the pho­tog­ra­phers’ works, May­ito, Gran­dal, Iván Cañas, Willy Castel­lanos, Mallo, Mario Al­gaze and Or­do­qui are as ex­cel­lent as the sculp­tures from Gay Gar­cía, Car­los González, Alejandro Aguil­era, Mario Al­mager or Armando Guiller. How­ever, the works are not suf­fi­cient to his­tor­i­cally group these valu­able ex­pres­sions—with more ac­tive artists over­seas, like the ex­traor­di­nary Jesse Fernán­dez and Agustín Cár­de­nas.

Henry Bal­late, one of the cu­ra­tors of Artists in Pur­ga­tory, cu­ra­tor of Leonardo Ro­dríguez’s Col­lec­tion and that of the Ken­dall Art Cen­ter, coun­sels me: “col­lect­ing is twice as dif­fi­cult, since the first pur­pose is help­ing to pro­mote the artist away from his coun­try, start­ing with lim­ited work, found by do­ing ad­ver­tise­ment, like Rey­nar­dus, and with the elec­tric­ity services com­pany, like Leonardo. This is dif­fer­ent from col­lect­ing for the sake of art, with un­lim­ited cap­i­tal or sim­ply on com­plet­ing a new type of in­vest­ment port­fo­lio. Both en­thu­si­as­ti­cally at­tract fam­ily and friends who be­come un­paid sup­port try­ing to es­tab­lish con­tact with the artists. This ex­hi­bi­tion is a non–prof­itable ex­change; ac­cord­ingly, Leonardo’s col­lec­tion will be ex­hib­ited by Rey­nar­dus in Sara­sota, the city where he presently lives”.

These are firm steps that ex­trater­ri­to­ri­ally broaden the se­duc­tive ca­pac­ity of Cuban arts and cul­ture. ƒ

This col­lec­tion emerged in re­cent, when Rey­nar­dus was a suc­cess­ful New York pub­li­cist, wit­ness­ing the hard time of many of his com­pa­tri­ots who seek­ing new hori­zons in the United States.

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