Cuban Painters at the Museo de Arqueologia de Chamizal

Where else can you go to two openings in two countries in one night? Friday night I had the opportunity to see an interesting show by three distinguished Cuban painters at the Museum of Archeology at Chamizal in Juarez. The museum has been doing an amazing job of facilitating exchanges between artists from various locations. Next month they will send five artists to Galeria 910 inOaxaca in a show called Muestra Plastica Juarense. This is the result of an exchange with Oaxaca in which they sent artists here.
The museum plans for this exhibit with Cuban artists Jorge Hidalgo, Daniel Santiesteban and Eduardo Leyva to be the start of a series of exchanges between Juarez artists and Cuban artists. These artists will be here all week giving lectures and workshops. This is a tremendous opportunity for mutual artistic exploration between the two countries.
It was interesting to see the works of these three, all of whom are from Holguin in the west of the country because in all three cases their concerns seem to be different from that of many artists in our country.
Jorge Hidalgo, from Santiago, is a painter and engraver who is president of UNEAC (Union of artists and writers in Holguin province. He has won a large number of awards and has shown all over the world. His works tend to reflect a preoccupation with the mythical. He works with obviously metaphysical images in an attempt at exploring something universal. His work Pachamama reminds one of a Central American Pieta. His “Santera” with an other worldly mythical figure with a cloak wrapped closely around covering all but his face presents an image steeped deep in the past. Sagrado contains two bird forms coming up from either side to meet in an ancient form. In the catalogue with the show it is mentioned he is interested in questions of metaphysics-why are we here, etc and uses mythical images to explore that. They are for the most part deceptively simply drawn but carrying a great deal of meaning.
Daniel Santiseban “D’San” is also from Holguin and is a ceramicist, painter and sculptor. His works can be found in murals in hospitals as well as on canvas and in ceramics.He is also a restorer of culturally historic buildings. He deliberately approves of kitsch and ‘bad painting”. His works seem in some sense the most commercial, but he is working at something else. He is trying to convey passion and sensation through vivid colorful almost cartoon-like forms. His paintings have the broad color of posters and banners and his forms of orchids or his symbolic paintings of the Seasons, like Primaveraz (Spring) try to convey through anthropomorphic shapes the feeling of the season. His figures are sometimes fun, sometimes almost frightening, often very sensual.
Eduardo Leyva Cabrera from Holguin is a painter, drawer and professor. Like the other two his works can be found in collections throughout the world and he is the current President of Filial of Artes Plastica of UNEAC in Holguin and is a professor of Art in that City.
His work plays with the idea of tension in forms and shapes. Circles and tubes combine to form patterns, buildings created from geometric shapes dominate his paintings.He is usiing this to also deal with human existence and existencial dilemas. In his work perhaps more than the others we see images we have seen before. If one can talk of classical contemporary work this might be one description. As with the others, the quality and technique is of a high quality, but again the concerns seem from a comfortable past time. This is not too criticize, it is simply interesting to see at a time when much contemporary American work for instance seems tohave moved in other directions.
In his introductory remarks, D’San talked of it being a privilege to be in Juarez and see the artists here. The privilege works in both directions. The museum must be congratulated for reaching out and making these connections. To have these exchanges will be beneficial not only for the individual artists but for all of us in the region who will grow from this contact.-david sokolec

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