By March several proposals to complement the celebrations of International Women’s Day had already been devised: a solo show by the young artist Lisyanet Rodríguez (1987) and a tribute to
Gina Pellón (1926-2014), through conversations with the creators Ivonne Ferrer (1968), Ana María Sarlat (1959) and Laura Luna (1959). At the same time, the Kendall Art Center (KAC) was in the vortex of expanding its exhibition salons, therefore its director, Ciro Quintana, considered—for the new space—the idea of setting up an intergenerational dialogue between different artists having a common formation, the Instituto Superior de Arte (Higher Institute of Arts, Havana).
Before all these ideas and confluences, I decided that Poems was the perfect title to combine the three exhibitions, like individual poems set in the same event. I. Blooming by Lisyanet Rodríguez, II. Fugacious by Gina Pellón, Ivonne Ferrer, Ana
María Sarlat and Laura Luna; and lastly III. Being by Sandra Ramos (1969), Ana Albertina Delgado (1963), Marlys Fuego (1988) and Grethell Rasúa (1982).
An exhibit by women artists, who do not have any intentional or stated feminist attitude. It is simply a communion of discourses and intimate poetics with the subtleness and elegance of good art.
Who is she? Is she an ontological essence, a discursive figure, a historical convenience (…)? — Lázara Castellanos
With the Blooming series Lisyanet Rodríguez questions the canons of “the ugly” established in western culture. From a deep emotional attachment to nature and mankind, she considers that every living being is beautiful, since every birth, every flowering—Blooming—is a process of magical essence.
On this premise she decides—with exquisite technical skill—to create works that thrust the spectator into “a formal ugliness” and “its artistic representation”. For some seconds the audience is placed at a receptive crossroad. But she knows how to use in her favor the value of aura in an artwork. From her canvases and papers she exonerates those beings that are deformed, unbalanced, incomplete, different, and elevates them to a hierarchy of sublime beauty. The pains, fears, dispiritedness suffered by her figures are vindicated with keen energy. Since like all the beings that come from nature, they have unique qualities, a certain perfection.
It is interesting to observe how animal and human representation in this series varies diametrically, even though the theme syntagm is the same. The first ones, drawn with color pencils on white paper, in their polymorphism, deformed, they have a happy look. However, in the representation of the human figure the dramatic quality and suffering is expressed. Made on large canvases with mainly gray and ocher tones, the work is totally self-referential. The artist’s face is repeated before the spectator, and female bodies, faceless or with part of their hands and feet severed, emerge. It is as though Lisyanet exorcized her deepest fears and brought them to light. Constantly, the look escapes, hides, disappear… (Hunting Butterflies, 2017; Stumble, 2016; Holding on, 2016). And she looks at us, she does not question us, just poses, as a floating being from another world (Fallen Princess). “They can be disquieting and pitiful, also dramatic, romantic and melancholic. But I always strive to inspire feelings of love, sweetness, kindness and tenderness that are an eternal and universal part of the human condition”—assures the artist.
Like a posthumous tribute to Gina Pellón, part of her works belonging to the Rodríguez Collection (collection attached to KAC, property of Leonardo Rodríguez and family) were exhibited. A total of twelve pieces that cover her production from the 1970’s up to recent dates. Canvases, collages, watercolors and pastels were the media on which her iconic guaguas (buses) and illustrations for children spread. Female faces having strong expressionistic features and some others of beautiful naïve lines. Her skillful use of color is perceived at once, the same as her distinctive Cuban mark which always went together—although she was settled in Paris most of her life. No doubt, her work is that of a free spirit that she described herself as “a kind of multicolor graffiti”.
As guest artists, the Miami-based Ana María Sarlat, Ivonne Ferrer and Laura Luna joined Fugacious with precise works.
The first one with the piece Dear Son (1996) where she presents a great Madonna, extremely symbolic and multi-referential— Maria, Medea—; a song to motherhood and women. A weeping figure, with breasts oozing milk and an abdomen that reveals a micro universe of life. A pin with a poem is hanging from the third chakra. A poem to the son, to man who must not forget where he comes from, who must not continue the cyclic history of inequalities and abuse. “Walk tall, walk honest, walk with love…” it chants and lulls. At the same time, when you see the colors white-red-blue that prevail in the work, you have a glimpse at references to the artist’s identity. The figure becomes Mother country and the son, thousands of men.
In Yarini, an orgy of freedom (2012) Ivonne Ferrer links historical references that require a keen spectator, able to unveil beyond the mere eroticism of the piece. The famous procurer from San Isidro, a modest neighborhood in Havana, who came to be a political figure, is the motive for talking about the course history takes in a given country, cyclic in its processes, like the way an orgy itself does. Politics/ history taken or considered as pleasure, promiscuity and adult games. The use of the graphic codes of that epoch and certain reference to pop, convey a humorous and flattering wink that the author has no problem to expose: “to dismantle or remove history’s clothes and to undress it in such a way that its tricks are revealed.”1
Finally in Laura Luna’s work, the influence of Afro-Cuban religions and spiritual practices is tangential and evident. In Islands of thousand paths (2017) a woman’s head, in red, is lying on a sea-sky-raft. Participant and witness of a story. Ribbons, like braids tied to plugs in her memory, are intertwined with painted ceramic boats; a memory associated to the personal history of migrations and changes of the artist. In Bicameral Pyramid (2017) Luna mimics the hypothesis about the division of cognitive functions into two parts 3000 thousand years ago. A part of the brain that talks, another that listens and obeys. The work is a male torso in bronze. Many analogies arouse.
The condition of being a woman, associated to diverse virility spaces, has always been one of her greatest anguishes.
In the series Havana-Mirage, Sandra Ramos constructs utopian Havanas. She interconnects spaces—HAV-MIA/HAV-NY—that are distant geographically and politically. For this purpose she uses bridges, winds, submarine-boats, ropes. Or like that Russian tale that I heard so much when I was a child, she decides to build Havana on a whale. It is interesting how, when you approach these works, their mirrors and reflections drive you into the illusion of the scene, as though we were one more character. The artist would state:” My work is a bridge, a line connecting my ideas with those of others and the past and future of my country, a path to tolerance of difference, to wonder at the world and its beauty, virtue of innocence and utopia”. In the book-object Searching Ithaca (2015) from the series Revisiting Mythologies, the journey turns into metaphor, in the retelling of a history of thousands. New narrations recreate the myth: A Havana inhabited by Polyphemus, Odysseus vessel and its crew arriving in Miami bay. “Ithaca gave you a marvelous journey without her you would not have set out. “As you set for Ithaca, hope the voyage is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery”.
On the other hand, Ana Albertina’s work has a quite distinctive iconographic peculiarity. In her pieces, with delineated figures and bald heads, influences of diverse cultures are syncretized.
The result is a sui generis work in which characters are inscrutable, magical, delicate and complex. A world of fantasy in which the palette rose absolutely prevails. In Moth and pollen (2017) and
Gold suspension (2017) you can perceive a direct connection to the original vital energy. The figures have the power to control the divine, the cosmos. The sequence is an important key, even when tie pieces function individually. See Dancing on one foot, The fantasies of the half, the Mystery of the forms, Green cheese balls, The absence and retirement (2009). As a whole, the works in the exhibition deal with subjects like the being and its fate and the continuous cycles of existence.
The series Stars, Travel, Mi Aire (My Air), Bondage and Blank Space are combined in a broad range of supports—canvases,
collages, light boxes and paper—to show a more elliptical Marlys Fuego in her discourse. The colors and characteristic brightness of her work are now laid out on dark backgrounds. Once again she plays with appearances, what supposedly looks beautiful conceals a setting of multiple complexities associated to childhood and building the gender identity. The dolls turn into reiteration, homogenized in white, they carry Cuban flags like inert soldiers. In the canvas Bondage, the artist substitute photos of other people for an image of herself. It is handed out to the spectator as object and subject, a model of a careful bondage. However, on the contrary, in Mi aire some dolls undergo binding in an abyss of fractals. As though childhood and adulthood were about reality and appearances.
Grethell Rasúa, with Beyond Beauty (2017), a series of photographs, drawings, objects and live plants modified by man, keeps being interested in “filing stories, likes, evidences of human activity from the context in which she inhabits”. This time her intention is to make a frame about the already worldwide phenomenon of “beautification” through the addition of paints, velvety materials and even fluorescent colors. She is concerned about the absurd of “aestheticizing” what is already beautiful in itself, but even more about the violent behavior towards those beings. In the gallery, she places real examples, and through drawings and photos makes the spectator get involved, she makes them look minutely, see the effects of such acts. This piece is the start of a vast work that the artist undoubtedly will develop until she feels the effectiveness of her call.
Poems is like a summary of dissimilar visual discourses, subjects, generations and cosmogonies. Beyond artistic practices, formats or manifestations, the exhibit is structured like a skein that always goes back to the starting point; to the question—who is she?—that underlies behind each work.
Gina Pellón’s skillful use of color is perceived at once, the same as her distinctive Cuban mark. No doubt, her work is that of a free spirit that she described herself as “a kind of multicolor graffiti”.
Searching Ithaca. From the series Revisiting Mythologies, 2015 Mirror Plexiglas, wood, eraser, digital print
13 x 79 x 72 inches
Courtesy the artists
ANA ALBERTINA DELGADO Polilla y polen, 2017
Acrylic on canvas
40 x 40 inches
Courtesy the artist
Mixed media on paper
26 x 18½ inches
Courtesy The Rodríguez Collection