critical texts


40 Years of the Experimental Shop of Graph of Havana
Raimundo Respall

By Raimundo Respall

There where the Alley of the Jet undertakes its trip toward the Square of the Cathedral, the doors of the Experimental Shop of Graph were reopened, from 1990. However, their history begins he already makes more than forty years, when in the afternoon of July 30 1962 an unusual group of artists and technicians also met in the one that was House of the Marquis of Arch, located in the historical Havanan square, to plot the destination of the Cuban engraving.

Orlando Suárez, muralista that directed the provincial advice of culture for those years was, next to the Chilean painter José Venturelli, the main instigator in the creation of the Shop of the Square. The clan founder counted with not more than ten artists and with the technical experience of the teachers Kind lithographers Mouriño and Israel del Valle. The modernity also favored this zeal, because the old presses and stones of the Compañía Litográfica of Cuba were waste as archaic procedures with the introduction of the offset and the revolving ones, opportunity that they took advantage to equip with them the shop and to transform them into support material of its project: to develop the artistic lithograph in Cuba.

At the beginning, under José Contino's guide, the pretenses were only those of rescuing the traditions litográficas like half of artistic expression. The essential concern in those years was to dominate the litography technical. The few artists that went at the beginning made it for curiosity, to know that it was that way to fix in a stone an image that would be immortal. However, very soon they were charmed by the mystery of the engraving and the group of assiduous artists to the Shop it grew at the same time with new and bigger editions of editions litográficas, more and more original, and they began to be introduced other graphic procedures that were making grow the expectations of what was baptized popularly as the Shop of the Square. Armando Posse, Posed José Luis, Ana Rosa Gutiérrez, Alfredo Sosabravo, Antonio Canet, Rafael Zarza, Antonia Eiriz and Umberto Peña, they represent, among other, the first blow of encouragement in the risky voyage of this cultural institution.

The decade of the seventy mark the effects of one of the main purposes in the creation of the Shop: the narrow bond between their founders and the growing art schools. In this space open to the creation they will meet the first egresados of the National School of Art (ENA) with their teachers. The marine metaphor of wave and hangover, are the best image to understand the phenomenon that happened in those years. Each teacher brought to his pupils, which were forming new engravers... and these to other, in an uninterrupted process. They were years where all the technical secrets were develados before the appearance of a novel effect. To take out a test of the presses was an event, a debate reason and festivity. The employment of each resource was considered on the whole: all were judges and participants in the creative process.

In the eighty it is more evident still the national and international transcendency of this coalition between the Experimental Shop of Graph and the Schools of Art. The Cuban engraving ascends in a vertiginous way, having as constant the search of new roads. Many of the artists that form the nucleus of the Shop during these two decades, have stamped their signature in the History of the Cuban Engraving: Eduardo Roca Salazar (I Collide), Roger Aguilar, Luis Miguel Valdés, José Gómez Fresquet (Fremez), Rafael Paneca, Nelson Domínguez Cedeño, Zaida del Rio, Roberto Fabelo, José Omar Torres, Carlos delToro Orihuela, Ángel Manuel Ramírez, Luis Cabrera and Diana Balboa...

The decade of the ninety, the old Shop had grown so much in artists' number that its production overflowed, claiming a bigger space. It was as well as, crossing the Square of the Cathedral, he appropriated of an old warehouse locked in the Alley of the Jet. Installed in a considerably bigger area, the Shop has a living room now for impressions that he has enough space it stops more than ten presses in use, besides having its own Gallery and a Cabinet of Prints where they are conserved from the first lithographs carried out in the Shop of the Square until those of more recent production.

It follows that spontaneous flow of creation at the present time: teachers and pupils, Cuban and foreign artists, continue the zeal of fusing the experience of the oldest with the renovating energy of those that begin, although their members have grown considerably and the times have changed, the dialogue stays although he has acquired new shades, because the engraving continues possessing the Don mysterious one of unifying their creators. The Rocks and Exhibitions that he frequently carries out the Shop are the center of writers' meeting, musicians, investigators and lovers of the art, passing the engraving to be part of the cultural life of the Nation.

The Experimental Shop of Graph is not in these years a dispersed clan, although many of its members founders walk for other homes. Their history lapses on that tape created by Moebius to mean the movement of the Infinite. Dozens of Cuban engravers have entered to the Shop in these forty years, without counting another so much of foreign artists, like others will come in next forty years. All, in a way or other, they leave their print in this history that he goes us making old from to count it and to live her. All have left a portion of their singular gleam, so that the group becomes constellation in the eternal night of the zeal, always sweet and bitter, of capturing to the mischievous muses. The critics come to parcel in generations and tendencies, but care they don't lose their steps in this infinite labyrinth of graphic monologues, because if something had made of this Shop an event, it has in fact been sustaining an alliance between the tradition and the modernity in balance with the most incredible expressive diversity and profusion of technical procedures.

To attempt a history of the Experimental Shop of Graph is as undertaking an unconcluded voyage: The anecdotes, nice and sad, would fill several volumes that are to be written; the trials, never conclusive and always personal, they would be pretexts for Byzantine debates; a chronology, for more exhaustive than was, he would leave lost dates among the shades of the time and it would not be able to catch certain transcendent instants that, for fleeting, they don't register in that conventional measure that we call our time"; to seek to complete the cast of artists that they built the annals of the Shop until this precise moment, would be mission impossible of un-slept biographer, because in this instant, when I am about to give end to these lines, more than an artists he is drawing a stone or taking out the first image of a piece wooden domeñado before their talent... I Only have left then the blunder of writing in scarce and tight lines, this brief review, so that when other forty years pass, know those that must happen here that one more, among so many brothers of the Shop, he tried to carry out this endless trip.

Raimundo Respall

Managing TEGH

February 29 the 2003.