Gallery 2: The Side Exhibitions

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Since some editions, the side exhibitions, more than a by-product of main expositions, have gained an increasing prominence. Besides they get involved into the dynamics required by the subject of the “main exhibition”, they make possible to show different elements impossible for the main exhibition to show because of the curatorial limits (although this edition is quite flexible). That is the case of the small collection that follows.

The National Museum of Fine Arts (MNBA) has gathered artists that make up a wide range according to trends, techniques and senses in their works around the Cuban Art building. With the exception of Ephemeral Poetry, a presentation of videos and music by Raúl Cordero, which only took place from 8:00 pm to midnight on May 23rd, the rest of the exhibitions could be visited up to next October. Besides the exhibitions that constitute the side program (Landscape, The Map of Silence and Ping pong square), the museum offered its rooms for the symptoms of deceit by the new artist Luis Enrique López (that belongs to the main exhibition placed in the exterior glass windows of Universal Art building and in the foyer of the Information Center of the Cuban Art building); and it also opened its rooms for Weaves, an impressive selection of Gustavo Pérez Monzón’s works, which are placed in the Foundation CIFO building.

All those who appreciate Tomás Sánchez’ art could enjoy the pieces, mostly recent, that make up Landscape. The curatorship favored two of the subjects by which this artist is generally known: hyperrealist landscapes that go beyond a simple copy of reality (because places that only exists in the artist’s imagination are an alleged reason to make a speech about ethical and philosophical problems), and the rubbish dumps, which allow him to ponder about the environmental issues afflicting humankind. The canvas make a deep impression due to the huge format, the polished technique and above all due to the strength of images.

The Map of Silence by the multifaceted artist Alexandre Arrechea causes the same impact. He exhibits alone for the first time in the prestigious museum, since he had made previous exhibitions as part of the artistic group Los Carpinteros (The carpenters). Through six pieces of different form resources, techniques and formats –specially made for the occasion– he continues a work presented a few months ago in New York, The map and the fact. However, here he gets far from previous inquiries by using a much more introspective thinking to map out different dimensions of the category of silence.

The enfant terrible of Cuban art, Wilfredo Prieto, is up to his old tricks with Ping pong square, which gathers a number of his pieces that belong to the collections SMAK (Ghent), of Kunstverein (Braunschweig) and of the National Museum of Fine Arts. What’s interesting about this exhibition is, on one hand, how embracing it is, since the trajectory of the artist could be followed from 1995. On the other hand, it is possible to appreciate a very little-known pieces in Cuba and others specially made for this exhibition. All of them share the same marked intention of the artist to fragment the dichotomy signified-signifier.

Weaves is a trip around Gustavo Pérez Monzón’s work, and more precisely, around the time where he approaches to the scientific ground through abstraction. An example of that are the representations of numbers and their spatial connections from the beginning of the decade of 1980. The pieces in the exhibition also show the step towards numerology at the end of that decade, which is an element that gives his poetry a much more symbolic and metaphysical idea about the existence.

Because of the visibility of an event like the Biennial of Havana, with more than thirty years of existence and an important acknowledgement at a regional level, it is logical that all Cuban artists, well-established and Young, want to exhibit their more recent Works. This has been the excuse of exhibitions like HB, Crack, of the Factoría Habana (Havana factory) and private galleries, a pretty new phenomenon in the Cuban plastic arts field.

The first, a showroom event on its third edition, took place in Pabexpo showground. However, it is the first time that the three main centers that commercialize art in the country join forces: Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets (represents 20 artists), Galería Habana (Havana Gallery represents 24 artists) and Génesis Galerías de Arte (Genesis Art Gallery represents 13 artists). An element of the group to highlight is the harmonious coexistence of well-established artists (among them it stands out five artists awarded the National Plastic Arts Prize: Manuel Mendive, Roberto Fabelo, Eduardo Ponjuán, Lázaro Saavedra and René Francisco) and young artists, although many of them have already gained recognition within the Cuban plastic arts scene. The experts in charge of the curatorship have taken care of every detail to find a harmonious dialogue between the wide variety of artistic expressions, forms, techniques and resources.

Besides HB, Galería Habana has another proposal that takes place as a collateral event: the exhibition Crack. The pieces that make up this show were made under the “pretext” of making a speech about the present financial crisis and its different aspects. That’s the reason why the euphoria, panic, addiction, global chaos, insomnia or real estate bubble, just to mention some ideas, take a leading role in the pieces by Antonio Eligio (Tonel), Ariamna Contino, Enrique Báster, Felipe Dulzaides, Glenda León, Iván Capote, Roberto Fabelo, Yunier Hernández, the group Los Carpinteros (made up by Marco Antonio Castillo Valdés and Dagoberto Rodríguez Sánchez) and Carlos Garaicoa.

The important gallery in the downtown O’Reilly Street received, in every floor, the proposals of René Francisco (Entropy, ground floor), Rocío García (The Mission, first floor) and Carlos Montes de Oca (Deconstruction of the horizon, second floor). The first of them, playing with the diverse senses of the word entropy, takes advantage of different resources (mirrors, nets, sketches, etc.) to express his idea about “the chaos of a system” (molecular, from the physics field, but here it is seen from a social level), “the power of ambiguity of a message” and “the evolution or transformation” (according to the meaning Greeks had of these words). Rocío shows us again her androgynous and ambiguous beings in huge format sets (the different paintings make up what could be pages of a comic book). Precisely, being part of a comic book is what makes up an organic whole, although there are, like in previous series, form and conceptual elements that provide cohesion. Montes de Oca, for his part, presents a video and a series of abstract paintings, where, as the title points out, he experiments diverse ways to deconstruct the horizon.

Another interesting aspect of the side exhibitions is the repetition of names, which allows to confirm the productive moment of many artists. That is the case of Wilfredo Prieto and Yornel Martínez, for example, who together with Lester Álvarez, Levi Orta and Ezequiel Suárez make up Karaoke, which is open to the public from May 18th to August 18th in “the apartment”, new exhibition site. According to the poetics previously developed by these young artists, the pieces dialogue about the problems to which they have been involved: reappearance of some key concepts for the History of Art (originality, the unrepeatable character, and authorship), questioning of art as a demiurge and a reflection around the couple idea-execution.

This brief outlook through some of the main side exhibitions, according to the favorable reception by the public, highlights how the city has decked out for the next celebration of Cuban plastic arts: the Biennial of Havana.

P.V.D.

Images: Alexandre Arrechea, The Map of Silence, 2015

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