Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from Cuba

Cuba, the Isla Grande that Christopher Columbus called “the most beautiful land that human eyes have ever seen,” has been going through a kind of rite of passage in recent years from the visions and the reality of the Castro revolution to an increasing openness towards the attractions of the World. In the midst of this momentous change, the Imago Mundi project asked 144 artists to express, in small by 10x12 cm paintings, the deep feelings of those who are living through days of anticipation but also the inevitable unrest.

Ramón Mesa Bauza - Stamp (2013)

“The topics – notes Luciano Benetton, the creator of Imago Mundi - range from the natural world of the clear skies and the sea to cityscapes, from the African cultural matrix to contemporary anxiety, from eroticism to a human dimension of suffering, from the desecration of revolutionary myths to alienation. The techniques used include glazed ceramics, acrylics, engraving, embroidery, crochet, collagraphy. Regardless of the different voices, a common expressive quality can be perceived, fruit of a solid cultural environment.”

Dionni Caneda Navarro - Social Indisciplines 1;
Dionni Caneda Navarro - Social Indisciplines 2

Erik Ravelo Suarez - Motherland

Julio César Carmenate Laugart - Tension (2013) ;
Julio César Carmenate Laugart - Tension 1 (2013)

Mónica Batard Lorenzo - Untitled (2013)

A cultural environment that is, objectively, fruit of the achievements of the legend of Fidel Castro, which in two areas in particular have improved the standard of living of Cubans, despite the country’s economic and industrial problems: health and universal literacy. The people of Cuba, notwithstanding their political isolation and the severe contrasts with the United States, which have only recently softened with the Obama presidency, have for many years enjoyed health indicators (life expectancy and infant mortality) at levels equal to, if not higher than, those of many developed countries. And, likewise, universal literacy has led the inhabitants of the Isla Grande to love the written word, as well as songs, dance and images.

Rodovaldo Clavijo Velez - I’m not Samo (2013);
Rodovaldo Clavijo Velez - But I Have the Gold (2013)

Luis Dennis Gallardo Castro - Milan, Paris, New York (2013);
Luis Dennis Gallardo Castro - Pen Drive (2013)

Carlos Gàmez, curator and art critic, comments that the artworks “cannot be boxed into a single display or collection however great they may be. However, it is like getting on a surfboard that is able to transform some small canvases into the synthesis of a country that moves in the world with contradictory opinions and controversy regarding the act of artistic creation.”

Raúl Bueno Vidal - The industrialized she-wolf (2013);
Raúl Bueno Vidal - Mechanical lighter (2013)

Maricel Nàpoles Gonzàlez, also a curator and art critic, explains how the Imago Mundi collection was implemented in Cuba from a practical point of view. “The project has involved artists from the three main regions of the country: east, central, and west, bearing in mind the most important artistic centers in each region. For starters we called the painters in search of greater thematic and stylistic variety present in the artistic scene: from the rural landscapes, the musical and Afro-Cuban traditions through to tropical surrealism in order to arrive at conceptual works which closely reflect the paradox of the human being and the dilemmas of today’s Cuban society.

Carlos Alberto Leyva Beritán - Country landscape (2013)

Roberto Guerra Hechavarría - Portrait (2013);
Roberto Guerra Hechavarría - Cuban landscape (2013)

Fernando Goderich Fabars - Extension and Comparison (2013);
Fernando Goderich Fabars - Comparison and Extension (2013)

Secondly, we decided to invite sculptors with the clear intention not only to create volumetric works, but also to find experimental artists who are able to break away from the ancestral plan of the canvas.”

Ceilàn Domínguez Salmón - The desperation of the woman of the house I (2013)
Ceilàn Domínguez Salmón - The desperation of the woman of the house II (2013)

Dennis Jardines Guerra - Portrait fo the Khukov Timoshenko plug (2013);
Dennis Jardines Guerra - Portrait of the Ivana of Khokov Timoshenko outlet (2013)

The works that are part of the collection were created recently, between 2012 and 2013. "If in the 80s - notes Maria Elena Orozco, university researcher and art critic – attention to social issues prevailed, today the trend has predominantly moved towards personal aspects and the role that the artist assumes, or feels it necessary to play in order to express his artistic discourse as well as the reality that surrounds him. The art of today is not about making a statement, but instead calls into question the reality that is becoming more and more complex.”

Leodanys José De la O. Reyes - Interior landscape (2013);
Leodanys José De la O. Reyes - Exterior landscape (2013)

Browsing through the works in the collection you cannot help but notice how references to legends of the revolution, like Che Guevara or the national flag, are rather fleeting and framed in a creative and liberating energy, often with an irreverent attitude.

Evelynn Álvarez Rodríguez - We will be (2013);
Evelynn Álvarez Rodríguez - Like Che!!! (2013)

Juan Luis Maceo Núñez - Untitled (2013)

Among the 144 artists in the Imago Mundi project, we encounter the most diverse experiences, from the over-fifties to artists who are fresh from the Academy, and self-taught artists who have achieved successful careers. Thanks to this curatorial and artistic policy – highlights Carlos Gàmez – “a mosaic gradually took form that encompasses various ways of understanding art, beginning with the most traditional painting up to the more conceptually intense expressions.”

Eddy Ochoa Guzmán - Noctural landscape 1 (2013);
Eddy Ochoa Guzmán - Noctural landscape 2 (2013)

Edgar Radamés Yero Vigo - Secrets of Kings I (2013);
Edgar Radamés Yero Vigo - Secrets of Kings II (2013)

Roberto Fabelo - Siren (2013);
Roberto Fabelo - Romantic rhinoceros (2013)

From a global perspective, Luciano Benetton cites José Martí, poet and national hero of the Isla Grande (“everyone has the right to be educated, and they in turn have an obligation to educate others”) and concludes: “Today the Cuban artists are collectively saying that producing visual art also means a dialogue with others, it means communicating with the world. In perfect harmony with Imago Mundi, theirs is an art that creates connections.”

Credits: Story

Project management
Maricel Nápoles González

Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Luciano Benetton
Carlos Gàmez
Maricel Nápoles González
Maria Elena Orozco
Demetrio De Stefano

Editing and translation
Carlo Antonio Biscotto
Emma Cole
Pietro Valdatta

Special Thanks to
Yoan Álvarez
Dadne Carbonell
Ileana Colás
Carlos Gámez
Anaisis Taupier
Oandris Tejeiro

Art direction
Namyoung An

Marco Pavan

Marco Pavan

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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