STUCK IN LIMBO
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.
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.