Cuba Arts

Cuban art, term for the art in the area of ​​Cuba, in a broader sense also the art created by Cubans in other countries.

According to directoryaah, the indigenous population of Cuba was quickly decimated soon after the Spanish conquest (from 1508) and left hardly any traces. Two types of houses are among the living testimonies of this culture, albeit limited, to this day: the round huts of the elite (caneyes) and the rectangular huts (bohíos) preferred by the rest of the population. In the 20th century, artists repeatedly took up motifs from the »Santería«, a mixed religion that is widespread in Cuba and is composed of elements of both Catholic and traditional African beliefs. – The artistic center of Cuba is the capital Havana, where the most important art-historical monuments are also located. In addition, Santiago de Cuba and v. a.

Time of the viceroys

With the Spanish came the architecture of the Iberian Peninsula to Cuba, although because of the trade monopoly of Seville BC. a. the Andalusian architecture was exemplary. Fortifications that served to protect Havana, an important trading center, have primarily survived from the early days. As in Mexico, the abundance of high-quality hardwoods led to the flourishing of the richly decorated Mudéjar style (particularly noticeable on the wooden ceilings in churches and private houses). The baroque style had a defining effect, and with the economic boom in the second half of the 18th century it spread in many sacred and secular buildings (e.g. Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba, 1522; damaged 1770, renewed 1806-10). In particular, the portal zones (portadas) were designed in a representative manner, as in Spain. Typical elements of secular building were initially wooden, later wrought iron bars (barrotes) for the windows on the ground floor and gallery corridors (portales) made of wood or stone in front of the houses in public squares and main streets with tiled roofs and wooden ceilings. The cathedral function took over after several previous buildings in the 18th century the limestone church of the Jesuit seminary San Cristóbal in Havana (1748-77; with rich neoclassical interior of the 19th century), which is considered the most important baroque building on the island. Stepped in the field of painting José Nicolás de la Escalera (* 1734, † 1804) with religious themes. The portraitist Vicente Escobar (* 1757, † 1834) was the first mulatto who could work as an officially recognized artist; In 1827 he was appointed Spanish court painter with a studio in Cuba.

19th century

In 1818 the Academia de San Alejandro was founded in Havana, which dominated the art scene until the beginning of the 20th century. The focus of the training, which still has an impact today, was drawing and printmaking, v. a. the lithography, which is also important for tobacco advertising. In 1838 the native French Frédéric Miahle (Federico Miahle; * 1810, † probably 1881) created his series of vedas “La isla de Cuba pintoresca”. The painter and at times director of the Academy Leopoldo Romañach (* 1862, † 1951) became particularly influential.

When independence from Spain was declared in 1898 with the support of the USA, this triggered a deep identity crisis in the mother country, which the “generation of 98” took up in literature and art (including I. Zuloaga).

Modern and present

For the 20th century, a distinction is made between the republican epoch and the revolutionary epoch. During the economic dependence on the USA, Cuba was hardly perceived as a cultural capital. This changed when F. Castro came to power in 1959. Some artists and architects left the country, others came back from exile or came to Cuba from scratch, including. the architect of Italian origin Roberto Segre (* 1934), who also works as a publicist. Even later, under the conditions of strict censorship, there was limited freedom for artists. With the establishment of the Ministry of Culture in 1976, a phase of intensive state support for the arts began: Biennials have been held regularly since 1984. The merit of the art critic Gerardo Mosquera (* 1945), who curated the first three biennials. Another focal point of Cuban art life is the Centro Wifredo Lam, which opened in 1985 and which also largely organizes the biennials, as well as the Fundación Ludwig de Cuba of the German collector P. Ludwig (since 1990).

Architecture: Until the 1920s, Cuba was dominated by a historicist architectural language (e.g. the “Capitolio Nacional” in Havana, built on the Washington model by Evelio Govantes and Félix Cabarrocas under the direction of Eugenio Rayneri Sorrentino, 1912–29; today a natural history museum). Functionalist buildings were not erected until the 1940s. In 1956 Town Planning Associates received the order to develop Havana into a leading tourism center with a modern infrastructure concept (the execution was carried out by J. L. Sert). The revolution interrupted the plans. Instead, residential construction has been promoted since 1959, for which the Havana East quarter, which was designed as a closed complex and partly realized on its own initiative, is exemplary. The economic reorientation after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in 1989/90 then again led to an increase in sophisticated buildings for the tourism industry.

Painting, sculpture and media art: since the 1920s, an opposition of young artists with different techniques and attitudes against the academy has formed (e.g. Víktor Manuel García, * 1897, † 1969). The painter W. Lam achieved an international reputation who linked ideas of surrealism with myths and rituals of the »Santería« in his works and, through his travels, created a real bridge between Europe and the Caribbean. After 1959 photography, poster art and book design displaced the traditional artistic genres. The frequent use of recycled materials and objects soon emerged as a special feature of newer Cuban art. For ideological reasons, a distinction was made more and more between two apparently clearly separated worlds: the so-called Cubano-American artists (associated with Miami, the most important place in exile for the Cubans) were contrasted with the artists who remained on the island. In fact, since the departure in the 1980s at the latest, the similarities have come to the fore again. In this context, the Havana-born took Ana Mendieta (* 1948, † 1985) played an important mediating role, who had attended an art school in the USA and had risen to become a well-known performance artist in New York Latin culture before visiting Cuba in 1981. With the series “Esculturas Rupestres” (1981), Mendieta transferred her theme of the reunification of the body with the earth to her home island. One of the best-known Cuban artists residing in Miami is José Bedia Valdez (* 1959). Objects applied to large-format painted canvases. Tania Bruguera (* 1968) on the other hand, in her actions and installations, in which she puts historical and political events up for discussion not only in Cuba, she also tries to unsettle the viewer emotionally. Other important contemporary artists are Carlos Garaicoa Manso (* 1967), Félix González-Torres (* 1957), Alexis Leyva Machado (* 1970) and Ernesto Pujol (* 1957).

Photography: The Cuban photographers of the 1960s and 70s understood the street as a space for action and saw themselves primarily as documentarists. The section of a photo of Che Guevara that Korda, actually Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez (* 1928, † 2001), took on March 5th, 1960 and which, reproduced in poster form, became a world-famous icon became famous. Following a general trend, Cuban artists now produce staged recordings more often, only that their studio photos are usually taken in cramped everyday spaces without a studio. Manuel Piña (* 1958) joins, among others. with political-symbolic photo installations to the public. Eduardo Aparicio (* 1956) understands his works (e.g. the series “Entre Miami y La Habana”, 1994–96) not as documentations, but as interventions that arise with the intention of examining the similarities between two realities that are generally considered to be opposites. The generation of Piñas and Aparicios also includes the photo artists Marta María Pérez Bravo (* 1959) and Abigaíl González (* 1964).

Cuba Arts