Dra. Magaly Espinosa. La Habana, Cuba
«…at crucial moments in the history of a poor country
such as Cuba, artistic sensitivity has proved to be
one of its invaluable assets».
The first issue of CdeCuba Art Magazine appeared in 2008, a unique publication with characteristics of both a catalogue and an art magazine. Cuban art is the anchor that sustains it with reviews of young artists emerged since the beginning of the present century along with more experienced ones.
Its structure is simple, consisting of short texts illustrated with images of works by the artists presented in each issue, alternating images by other creators. We will not find in it the critical reviews in essay form or any other typical element of art magazines: sections, ads, references to art publications, or the extensive visual information typical of a catalogue. However, that editorial ambiguity is perhaps one of its charms, since it informs us in a quick and agile way about a visual universe as distinctive as the publication itself.
So far, 30 issues have been published (including 0 and 00) with texts that cover the creation of approximately 300 artists.
Editor Ximo Sánchez’s patient visits to artists’ studios, dialogues with creators, and discussions with the critics chosen for each occasion reached the magnitude of a work method. His sensitivity enabled him to understand which critic was adequate to analyze the work of a given artist; and by enabling the approach to creators who were not equally well-known he brought together emerging critical voices next to established ones. For example, in No.07 we can read a text by Gerardo Mosquera about Jorge Luis Marrero, an outstanding creator and member of a generation that emerged in the nineties; in No.02, a text by Antonio Eligio Tonel about photographer René Peña, author of some of the most powerful photographs of the Cuban visual imagery; or in No.22, a restless and daring critique by Héctor Antón about a volcanic creator, Henry Eric Hernández.
Other duets appear in No.23: the text on Jesús Hdez-Güero entitled “Los pliegues de lo político” by the undersigned, as well as the text dedicated to the work Kafka resucita en La Habana by Celia & Yunior, also by Héctor Antón. I mention these texts because they enrich the publication b presenting artists with a work of social and political content, a trend that is difficult to maintain in the current conditions of Cuban art, which debates between the institutional policy that does not favor that trend and the market and its attractions. Antonio Correa, Magaly Espinosa, Héctor Antón, Gabriela Azcuy, Frency, Estela Ferrer, Carlos Gámez, Abel González, Larry G. González, Hamlet Hernández, David Mateo, Píter Ortega, Jorge Peré, Ricardo Alberto Pérez, Gustavo Pita, and Suset Sánchez are some of the critical voices reiterated throughout the different issues.
Ximo has managed to bring together Cuban artists and critics living on the island and abroad, thus producing a memory of historical, philosophical, aesthetic, sociological, and anthropological interpretations, with analyses aimed at understanding each creator’s discourse. A narrative dynamics has thus been achieved that allows for the spiritual scope of philosophy, the precision of the aesthetic studies, the whims of sociological dilemmas and the charms of each anthropological element.
Such result has been achieved from the information and knowledge gathered by him, to detect, within such a broad artistic production as that of the young Cuban art, the sector that has stood out for the formal and thematic quality of the works, together with experimental searches.
The context surrounding this art has given rise to splendid publications, some of which have emerged from the life of art itself. This was the case of Albur, an almost handicrafted magazine published at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) under the direction of a drama student, Iván González Cruz, with the support of professors and artists of the Cuban vanguard in all the specialties of its Faculty of Visual Arts. That indomitable space also produced the newspaper Memorias de la postguerra, published under the guidance of artist Tania Bruguera, which in spite of only two issues has become an emblem of how a publication can cover the essence of the renovations and conflicts taking place in the artistic field. Added to it was Lo que venga, edited by David Mateo, which contributed to this wave of editorial dignity. Both were models that evidence the amount of criticism and theoretical thought, when it manages to reflect and advance predictions about the value and persistence of art.
These alternative publications, which appeared and disappeared in the nineties, were an initiative of their editors and of the efforts of artists and teachers. However, in order to understand that decade and to a great extent the prodigious one of the eighties, it is necessary to read the texts they contain, because they bring us closer to a moment when the document became art.
CdeCuba Art Magazine lives other circumstances typical of the years that began with the new millennium. It does not have the multidisciplinary character that appears in the above-mentioned publications nor the shelter of a magical place like the ISA domes. Nevertheless, it approaches the spirit of remembrance present in them, and like its colleagues, evidences a lack of prejudice that should prevail in any critical judgment.
One of its most significant qualities is its unifying nature by bringing together artists and critics of diverse genres, types and trends, of different generations from the island and abroad in that territory without borders in which Cuban culture subsists, but it also has managed to fulfill the purpose to which David Mateo refers: «the most difficult thing is to be systematic».
The regularity of this publication, maintained for 12 years (so far) has been turning it into a reference point for getting to know young creators who still do not have sustained visibility in the context of Cuban art. Something noteworthy about it are the critical texts written by artists about other artists, as the one written by Larry J. González about Yornel Martínez (No.12), the one by Yornel on Reynier Leyva Novo (No.13), Ruslán Torres’s text on Ernesto García Sánchez (No.15), and Henry Eric’s on Renier Quer (No.20). Alongside this are texts written by artists about their own creation, among them Jorge Wellesley (No.13), Francisco Masó (No.12), Harold Vázquez (No.09) and Darwin Estacio (No.10).
This editorial work has been linked to the creation of a collection. In both of them one may find an orientation as to how the circle of Cuban art of recent decades has been formed, generating a mutual dependence among the artists that has helped them to communicate among themselves and with the editor at a time when alliances are not systematic.
With regard to the collection, it follows the work methodology of its creator, already applied in the edition of the magazine; hence studying it involves taking into account the above-mentioned objectives and goals.
To date, it contains around 450 works, divided between the traditional art forms and the new artistic trends, mainly video and installation. The strongest presence lies in painting and drawing, but the fact of gathering 32 videos is an effort worthy of note, considering that collections do not privilege that form of creation even though Cuban art treasures some of its most valuable pieces in that field.
In Cuba there is no museum of contemporary art, a situation that influences the flight and subsequent inclusion in private collections of many works that we will appreciate as paradigms of value in the near future. This does not happen because of the absence of a critique concerned with this circumstance, nor of criteria that warn against it, but because of the enforced cultural policy.
With regard to the work of José Toirac, art critic and curator Corina Matamoros, largely responsible for the Contemporary art collection of the National Museum of Fine Arts argued: «…When a curator has done the utmost to acquire the work of a creator for a museum, from the moment when his budding talent is noted to the height of his maturity, a far-reaching patrimonial interpretation of a production becomes evident, indicating that the work embodies an individual, unique, unrepeatable life and at the same time, the life of an era.”
Good works –always scarce, as an art critic would say– are so because of their power to represent society and culture, even if sometimes from the very discourse of art, but to appreciate them at the right moment to make them part of a collection is the task of the specialist. This will always influence the assessments that the glance of time will cast on the importance and meaning of works, schools and trends. That is why it is so important to know how to treasure art in order to achieve collections that really contain the dynamics of its evolution.
The international projection of our art has depended on a group of very varied elements also linked to the Cuban socio-political process. Tonel once referred to this projection as false starts: «…In my opinion, Cuban art in the last twenty-some years has had a series of false starts in terms of inserting itself, let us say as a school, in the international art market. The causes are complicated, the fact is that none of these false starts has produced what many people expected they would produce…»
The collection that Ximo has managed to put together has an important value in the present time. Stored and hung on the walls of his pleasant Valencian house-gallery, it elegantly contains the uniqueness of the editorial work.
Displaying it would be a gift for Cuban art lovers, passionate lovers who do not admit scolding their beloved and like all lovers enjoy what love means.
1. CdeCuba Art Magazine, edited by Ximo Sánchez, is an editorial proposal of Cuban art produced jointly in Spain, Cuba, and Miami by the Siranga Group.
2. The generational issue has been a constant in the Cuban critical discourse, in a sense validating the importance of understanding artistic creation from the belonging to a generation, or considering it a spent resource in the frames of that discourse. It should be borne in mind that the socio-cultural characteristics of each decade, from the 1960s to the present, have generated creative processes with marked differences that must be considered, although some of the most valuable creators are so because of their ability to skip each stage and rejuvenate in the face of so much social change.
3. In the eighties there were several publications, among them Diáspora and Caja negra. The magazine ArteCubano appeared in 1995, published by the National Council for Visual Arts, with 3 annual issues, and later the Artecubano tabloid. In 2000, three anthologies of Cuban art were published, together with the digital magazines Veigas Archive Mailing List and Artcrónica.com. The latter is still ongoing as a project that includes other activities, At the same time, different magazines have appeared in the social networks.
4. Cuban art collections include the Farber Foundation with its digital publication Cuban Art News; Ella Fontanals-Cisneros; Jorge M. Pérez, (his collection is housed in the PAMM museum); the Sacramento Cuban Art Collection, and the Nina Menocal collection. On a national level, the work of Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales in the commercialization and dissemination of Cuban art has been outstanding for 37 years, along with the growth of private artists’ studios and galleries.
5. The National Museum of Fine Arts reopened in 2001; several of its spaces were destined to the artistic creation that germinated since the eighties.
6. Matamoros, Corina. José Toirac (Esperando por Carlos Enríquez) In: Artecubano magazine. No. 1/2019. Artecubano Editions. Havana. Cuba. 2019, P. 16.
7. Fernández, Antonio Eligio (Tonel). René Francisco: Del arte a la pedagogía. In La Gaceta de Cuba magazine.