HAVANA – Plywood that comes alive as a mural sculpture, clothing made from plastic mesh and bicycle tires and a Cubanized version of The New Yorker have been brought together in an interdisciplinary art exposition in Havana that pays tribute via art and graphic design to Cuba’s rich poster tradition.
“Conexiones” – with Spain’s Concha Fontenla as curator – will be open to the public starting this week at the Factoria Habana gallery, an ambitious project that brings together the work of 43 contemporary artists and designers in a heterogeneous tribute to Cuban “graphic design” that, in addition, serves to erase borders between different disciplines.
“It links together graphic design, industrial art, illustration, fashion design, ... all sorts of artistic shows. It’s difficult for me to put up barriers, because life and our situation already put them up for us,” Fontenla told EFE.
Coexisting on the three levels of the gallery in the heart of Old Havana until January will be graphic works, furniture, clothing, sculptures, photos and much more in a bold exhibit that kicks off with a tribute to the “exceptional roots” of graphic design, which had its seed in the film posters of the Cuban Cinematographic Art and Industry Institute (ICAIC).
“Everyone who came afterwards in graphic design owes a lot to Antonio Fernandez Reboiro, to Rene Azcui, to Ñico, to Julio Eloy Mesa,” Fontenla said.
Those striking posters of Cuban films of the 1960s and ‘70s have provided the motivational force for artists such as Michele Miyares, who reinterprets The New Yorker magazine in her work titled “The Havaner,” or Erik Silva, who in a conglomeration of typography, words and geometry recreates the gods from the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion.
Sandra Perez and Ernesto Garcia go even farther in their first collaborative effort, creating – instead of a poster – a sculpture of sinuous and organic shapes crafted from plywood that Fontela said “makes us think that the mural hasn’t died but rather can be revitalized.”
“It seemed interesting to us to create a type of sculptured tapestry ... which suddenly becomes something with another dimension,” said the artists, who in “Sapeli” wanted “to explore the boundary between the fragility and the strength of the material.”
And that, in fact, is another aim of the exhibit, Fontenla said, since “in those areas ... in those disciplinary frontiers one finds an enormously creative moment in current sculpture.”
Another example is provided by Arnulfo Espinosa, who instead of creating a poster had worked directly on a wall of the gallery to create “Imogination” using stickers with labels inviting the viewer to help build a Twitter “wall” – an ephemeral project that, like memes, can “chronicle” the Cuba in which the artist lives, he told EFE.
Espinosa said he wanted to offer the public “that freedom of expression given to people on the Internet, to which not everyone has access,” given that Cuba had no Internet connections available for cellphones until less than a year ago.
Immediately, the wall became filled with slogans like “reforms,” “love,” “we’re all Cuba,” and a made-up Spanish word meaning, perhaps, “temporaryness,” an ironic reference to the new economic crisis on the communist island that the government asserts is just temporary.
And yet another noteworthy portion of the exhibit are the costumes designed by Sandra de Huelbes using the rubber from bicycle tires, plastic mesh and other unusual elements.