Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

February 24, 1999.


HAVANA - There's nothing like art to reveal what lives in a country's spirit and to know its courage, its certainties, its fears, its confusions...Because it is all there, in its books, in its paintings, in its music, in its engravings.

I became convinced of that idea after it suddenly hit me while reading an article published in the newspaper "Granma" regarding "The Multiple Footprint," the second edition of an engraving project conceived by Belkis Ayón and Abel Barroso. At the same time I was able to feel how almost everything falls, at the slighest slip, under the repressive logic of power.

The above-mentioned show was exhibited in the Plastic Arts Developmental Center, formerly known as the Convento de Santa Clara (St. Claire's Convent). According to the author of the observer's note in Granma, to look over the sample was an eminently "artistic experience." I do not know if "artistic" was used in the sense of "pure art" or in the sense of the "art of commitment" (it already is well known what the commitment is to). Or did it mean artistic in the sense of conceptually harmless?

In any case Belkis Ayón's night-time beings are described as coming from "this island's dream."

About Carlos Garaicoa, Granma mentions his attraction towards "minimal-ism:" blank spaces, conceptual and anecdotal elements.

About Norberto Marrero, it mentions a "grotesque line," not precisely in the style of Goya.

And about Sandra Ramos, Granma highlights her "suggestive associations and original plastic solutions," with which she "visualizes conflicts and alternatives without resorting to symbols."

The piece went on to conclude that the show proved that the spirit of renewal is present in the engravers of the Cathedral Plaza Experimental Graphics Workshop, both among the old-timers and the so-called newer ones. And the latter show mixed techniques, transgressions, the formal aspect only; but of course!

Only at the end did it refer to theme, which is where mines are to be found. In that respect, what caught their attention? Precisely what is not worthy of attention.

It happens that the show was outstanding, Granma tells us, because "each time there are fewer and fewer of those who speculate with the circumstantial and the ephemeral or turn their works into pamphlets with overly critical or bogus allusions. And each time there are more and more of those who commit themselves to the search for a proper language."

And it adds: "Certain circus-like attitudes are being left behind."

And it was at this point when the idea that I spoke of above hit me and I became convinced of it, with a feeling not exempt of a little bitterness. For I remembered when, years ago, some exhibitions of at least one of those engravers were closed due to the "inappropriateness" of his themes.

I remembered the engraver then removing with indignation some of his paintings and I recalled seeing how a censorship committee rejected them in another exhibition, also around the same date and for the exact same reason.

Therefore I remembered his "circus-like attitude," his "speculations about the circumstantial and ephemeral," his "plastic pamphlets" and his "overly critical allusions."

Or, said in a different way, his natural effort as an honest artist was to conquer his freedom, not only in the field of techniques and language, but also in the field of themes and ideas because of the circumstantial and the ephemeral. I now correct the article writer from "Granma." It is defined not by the "what," but by the "how."

But I also remembered the way that this artist earned his "velvet exile." I remembered how, when not abroad, he now goes around Havana with foreign money and the look of a tourist and even has an updated passport already stamped with a visa for his next trip. And I understand why he was censured before yet now they even praise him in the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Thus, judging by this note "The Multiple Footprint" is just part of that footprint, certainly multiple, of the flock that has been marching along, all heads down, for the last 40 years, in a dead-end alley.

Germán Castro, Cuba Free Press.

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