critical texts


Mabel Llevat
Fashions come and go. Trends are recycled. The conceptual trend that oriented paradigms like Marta Maria Pérez, Juan Carlos Alom, Rene Peña in the field of photography, now exists side by side with different speeches and routines. More often in the visual arts takes place an interesting phenomenon. Like in the undertow that strikes after the glorious moments, this is a process that began vindicating disregarded techniques , were the sense, the abstract forms or meaning and the craft were predominating.
The conceptual background was no longer a discovery, the tide of youth that powered the madness and the adventure of conceptualism and experiment seems to have grown older in the skin of its heroes. Authors and spectators begin to reassess the technical knowledge, and to read again the past from this viewpoint.
Is this an attempt to take refuge in the conventional as a permanent support in view of the cracking of paradigms? Is this a return to the art as an autonomous entity, independent from the history held by Clement Greenberg?

Each time has elements that bring to mind the center of generated ideas prevailing as innovative in the artistic field, paradigms of research and renovation at a given time. There are times that seem to free us from the old ad inflexible … and there are other times of inflexibility, in which the artists whose work go beyond the conventionalisms as in a timeless look, stand out. Every retrospective or reunification revitalizes the contrasts, the dialogues, the antagonisms. The critical eye seems to rebuild history.

I think the main sign that characterizes the present time in our country is the re-reading. Tributes, anthologies, and retrospectives become widespread. In after-lunch conversations the last comment are on materials that have been condemned by the press, or on rehabilitated individuals or trends. And this is nothing but history rewritten; showing its dark spots before our eyes. There were always pioneers interested in vindicating, but this is more and more an “in-fashion” attitude and a very recent example of it is the movie entitled Soy Cuba, disregarded years ago by its makers, agents and professionals of the film industry of its time, considering that certain identity canons were poorly represented and considering that the film did not abide by certain norms of what is right in terms of photography, among other aspects. Today this film has been rehabilitated, wining prices in prestigious contests and competitions worldwide.

The elements brought into action or encouraging a retrospective are a usual practice to show the value of what is exhibited in a global way, either called “Cuban Painting”, or “Cuban Photography”, which are groups determined by the technique and the nationality, and which pretend to be an inclusive perception, assuming the evaluation and selection of the works based on wide spectrums of time periods. Its value lies also in holding the criteria for recognizing “the best and most valuable”, presenting the evolution of history throughout long periods of time, an invaluable practice for historians and critics, who can make later all kinds of esthetic or conceptual associations.

Retrospective stands beyond generation gaps by showing history beyond artistic or temporary assessment, beyond any tend or movement. In her theoretical support, the curator herself expresses: I do not intend to make an anthology treatise, but formulate grouping hypotheses, dynamic sequences and unexpected equivalences. Opinions that slip out of the author’s conscious at times. An experience that tests out the not always shrewd eye of the professionalized critic, rummages in virgin archives, opens collections and compromises the photographers all.

Reunification is the result of an image storm, a defy to the spectator who unifies and gives sense, through their different viewpoints, to all these efforts aimed to argument about different aspects, such as the way of apparently setting out all the artists in the same plane, leaving to the spectator the role of setting each one of them in that network of opinions which form the artistic field. The greater the effort to “erase all borders”, the greater is the temptation and the provocation to the spectators to reset them, surmount them, cross them and subvert them.

And after all this, there is that small world with aspiration to greatness: The photographic and its pretensions, objectives and wisdom. Its few, scarce, naive holds have fallen by moments in times of isolation, in standards and rereading due to the constantly repeated academic inefficiency. From there comes many times the underestimation of some people coming from other fields towards the Cuban photographic art and from there comes too, paradoxically, its richness. From that world of indifference, naivety, sacrifice, putting into practice its tools at the service of many other causes is that traditionally comes an inspiration for purity and idealism we all owe.

The different generations seem to make up when they embark on the conquest of the artistic world to claim the glory of true experts. As we can read in the manifesto written by the guardianship:

When we forget —good autodidacts as we are and thanks to our forgetfulness—, the Master who taught us the mysteries of the darkroom, revealing us the secrets of this craft.

Mabel Llevat Soy