Like the present-day art world more generally, Cuban contemporary art comprises diverse and varied methods, styles, messages, and media. Each individual artist deals in his or her own symbolism, concept, and expression, as you’ll see borne out in this exhibit, which is a nonexhaustive cross-section of current work by emerging to established Cuban artists. Among works ranging from wide landscape to figural drawing to portraiture to abstraction, certain themes do recur, though handled uniquely by each artist. Among the ideas to watch for throughout the exhibit are depictions of place that symbolize home or homeland, depictions of body that convey energy or spirituality, and lyricism expressive of passion, movement, and interaction. Representations of the land, flora, fauna, and architecture of Cuba figure prominently in contemporary artwork there, the place having been self-influential and self-sufficient during trade and travel embargos for nearly an entire generation. Painterly landscapes show one artist’s gentle affinity for the countryside of his childhood, while tightly rendered urban edifices by another speak to the politics expressed through architectural style. Gestural, dynamic scenes with natural elements (shells, animals, air/breath, plant matter) represent a religious understanding of relationship with the environment in multiple examples throughout the exhibit. Tightly intertwined with depiction of the human form is the notion of the vitality housed therein; the body is shown as both a locus of spirit/heart and a manipulable symbol of spirituality and actionable tenets. Figural work in this collection is energized by visible brushstrokes in some cases, narrative arrangement in others, and indication of movement yet elsewhere. Lyricism in this exhibit is also a means to convey energy, whether with non-objective mark-making or the lively reinterpretation of the world around, and sometimes within, the artist.
Throughout this sampling of Cuban works, and by way of various subjects and techniques, we see these artists looking within Cuba for inspiration, working with materials–actual and metaphorical–intrinsic to the island. Like the classic automobiles, famously sustained since pre-embargo with customized parts and remarkable ingenuity, the artwork shows a persistence not only in spite of, but enriched by a need to adapt and utilize available resources with deep intentionality and creativity.