Every time I hear of a “Cuban art exhibit” somewhere, I cringe because almost invariably it brings out the misguided, the impervious, and the apologists. Jim Lowe of the Barre Montpelier Argus Times probably falls in one of these categories. In this article about “¡Cuba!: Art and History from 1868 to Today” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, it’s apparent that he may or may not know his art, but he certainly doesn’t know his history.
For a writer, he certainly plays fast and loose with his words. Did you know that Cuba is “anathema” to the United States? As far as I know the Cuban government is a sworn enemy of the United States but has never risen to the level of anathema. However, its obliteration of individual freedoms and the oppression of its people might be anathema to all that Americans hold dear. And then there’s the question of subjugation. According to Lowe, Cuba went from fighting for its independence from Spain to “subjugation” by the US. Again the wording is questionable. You might maintain that the United States interfered in Cuban affairs and wielded undue influence, and was a tad colonialist. But as far as I know the United States never enslaved Cuba. Subjugation is what the people have been living under for the past half century.
But why quibble? The exhibit is divided into five time periods. He discusses all five. Do read it and see what he has to say about the “violence” and “squalor.” More importantly try this:
“Cubanness: Affirming a Cuban Style 1938-1959” is the most artistically exciting period represented in the exhibit. Here are myriad styles, expertly executed – all with unique Cuban flavor.
Contrast that with
The title “Within the Revolution Everything; Against the Revolution, Nothing 1959-1979” is taken from the words of President Fidel Castro, describing his feelings on the legal limitations of art. This segment of the exhibit is more interesting historically than artistically. Excellent photojournalism illustrates the beginning of the Castro years.
The Revolution is represented by a large poster collection, with many of them familiar to Americans. Again, they seem more of historic than artistic interest.
Need I say more?

3 thoughts on “Deconstruction”

  1. Canadians are an interesting case. They have done much collectively [as visiting tourists leaving millions of dollars in Castro’s coffers] and on a governmental level [through foreign aid, trade, and diplomacy] to keep the repressive, thuggish Castro regime alive. I don’t know if their morbid obsession with Cuba is a cowardly way of expressing their independence from the USA, their much more powerful neighbor to the south that totally eclipses them, or if they really somehow in a warped way think that Castro has done good for the Cuban people. This is entirely possible, and would denote a racist, colonialist tinge in them. The idea is that so-called “third-world people” [which is what Cubans were misguidedly viewed as] have to be content with a strong paternalistic figure [Castro] who feeds them and gives them food like cattle in a barn [because after all, we are not creative and can’t think for ourselves].
    This art exhibit is more of that perniciousness, more of that harm that the Canadians have been causing us since 1959. This art exhibit does nothing more than perpetuate the Castro mythology.
    By the way, Canada’s hypocrisy is that while Canadians will become indignant at the “injustices” of the “cruel blockade” they weren’t too indignant when they were the first to exploit Cuba and steal our patrimony once Castro rose to power. Castro has sold so many important paintings, antiques, and documents from Cuba’s libraries, museums and personal collections to the Canadians that it reminds one of what the Nazis did to the Jews.
    But, they continue to justify all of the harm that they are causing us. I guess that if they repeat “cruel blockade” enough times and claim to be indignant at the way that the USA is treating “Cubans” they can feel better about propping up the regime and stealing our patrimony.

  2. On a post I did a couple of weeks ago, I lamented how the revolution replaced the great Cuban musicians with their own insipid lackeys like Silvio Rodriguez and Pablito Milanes. One commenter took issue with this and listed all the “great” Cuban musicians that either stayed, or came after 1959.
    What this person, Jim Lowe, and so many others like them fail to realize is that talent does not equal art. Yes, a musician, an artist, a sculptor, a photographer, can have an incredible innate talent for their art, but if they are not allowed to express it freely it ceases to be art. The moment a piece is produced according to the rules and expectations of an outside force, it ceases to be art and becomes nothing more than propaganda.

  3. I remember the post. You’re right, Alberto. It’s difficult to distinguish. By no means, do you want to say that there is less talent. You only have to look at some whose efforts make it outside the island to see that there is plenty of that. It is the artistic freedom that is lacking.

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