A Cuban Moment in Boston – Arts Fuse review
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
For many Americans, Cuba has an air of mystery, but the art on view here is accessible, not enigmatic, even at times somewhat didactic.
Over 100/Under $1,000, at Galeria Cubana, 460 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA, through March 1.
By Kathleen C. Stone
Cuba has a complicated history, one that includes waves of indigenous peoples, Spanish colonization, African slave trade, a fledgling independence, outsized American influence, and a communist revolution. The country’s tumultuous progression is far from complete, given that it is reestablishing diplomatic relations with the United States. For enthusiasts who want to see an illuminating selection of Cuba’s art today, before the next spin of the evolutionary wheel, Galeria Cubana’s show Over 100/Under $1,000 is a good start. The gallery is offering a large selection of recent works, all reasonably priced.
The paintings and drawings are generally figurative – people, architecture, and street scenes predominate. But figurative does not mean realistic, and every artist manipulates subject matter to produce a distinct artistic expression.
Often, the use of materials is ingenious. Desiderio Sarmiento, for instance, incorporates coconut husks from his yard along with banana leaves into painted canvases to portray human figures. Sandra Dooley creates a series of female faces, reminiscent of Modigliani, with oil paint and fabric stitched onto the canvas. In one of the few overtly political pieces, Guillermo Estrada Viera prints a woodcut of a man, fist raised, on a Cuban ration card. On close inspection, the card indicates the holder was able to receive only a few of the rationed foods; most of the items were not available.
Other artists use innovative techniques to produce pieces that have a tactile quality. With collography, a print making method popular in Cuba, Isolina Limonta presses objects into a paste that, once hardened, becomes a three dimensional plate for inking; her prints are complexly textured and deeply colored. Another artist, Edel Bordon, uses a needle inserted into a pencil to score poster board before he rubs oil paint into the fine lines left by the needle. Other times he uses conventional materials – oil or acrylic on canvas – to make paintings that, with bold backgrounds flattening the picture plane, escape being conventional.