Photos: Elio Miranda
Water covers approximately 70% of the Earth’s surface, forming the oceans, seas, rivers, lakes and underground currents. Water represents between 50 and 60% of the human body, and usch is its importance that in order to survive it is necessary to drink, at least, a couple of liters daily. How then can we fail to understand its inveterate presence in art?
Ever since man is man he has perpetuated through the art representation what surrounds him and is essential for the maintenance of life: animals, vegetation, the cosmos, the Earth itself and, of course, water flowing on it. That tradition is the framework for the exhibition Agua… lo Masculino y lo Femenino (Water … the Masculine and the Feminine), open to the public at the National Museum of Fine Arts (Cuban Art Building) from October 11 through November 11 of this year.
Agua… attempt to go beyond the mere photographic exhibition (hence the name of expo-installation given to it by its authors), made up by a selection of printed works by twelve important contemporary artists – Mario Díaz, Humberto Mayol, Jorge Luis Álvarez Pupo, Lissette Solórzano, Pedro Abascal, Raúl Cañibano, Roberto Salas, Juan Carlos Alom, Julio Larramendi, Leysis Quesada, Arien Chang and the duet made up by Liudmila and Nelson — which may be appreciated in the traditional way, i.e., covering the walls of the museum’s transitory hall.
The pieces are complemented by an audiovisual sound track played during the inauguration and recorded in a multimedia DVD that makes up for the absence of the customary catalogue. Said sound track includes materials by Italian painters Angelo Colagrossi and Mauro Magni, as well as from Cuban Ángel Francisco Manzanet, together with photographers Juan Miguel Morales (Catalonian) and Elio Miranda (Cuban), who, with their personal art forms, glance at the unfathomable universe of the waters.
A third element rounds up the sample and unquestionably justifies its character of installation: the water jugs by ceramist Raciel Feria and the colonial waters prepared by Yanelda Mendoza, chief alchemist of the perfume shop Habana 1791, which offer a sort of alternative approach in relation to the uses that the precious liquid has had (and has) in human society throughout the centuries.
About the exhibited photos we would have to praise, in the first place, a versatility of styles that makes them go, from the black and white snap shot – most probably damp photography – by a master like Raúl Cañibano, to the conceptual experimentation by Roberto Salas or Liudmila and Nelson, who, based on digital manipulation, invent their own form of capturing, digesting and giving back the environment wrapping them and its essential connection to the chosen theme.
In turn, the audiovisual sound track endows Agua… with a dynamics that is seldom present in a plastic arts exhibition (conceived as the simple placing of the pieces in the corresponding area). The sound image in movement does not replace the static one but prolongs it, placing it at heights not even dreamt of only a few decades ago.
I will refer to a last asset of Agua…: the interactive catalogue, produced basically by Lizette Vila and Humberto Mayol with the participation of numerous artists and collaborators. The DVD in question puts together images – the already mentioned, plus extensive galleries of each one of the participants –, videos and updated CV’s of the authors and critical texts and interviews made at different moments. The record also contains an introductory article signed by Hilda María Rodríguez, curator, art critic, artist and professor of the Department of Art History of the Faculty of Arts and Literature of the University of Havana.
The appointment with Agua… at the National Museum of Fine Arts may be an edifying experience, not only from the aesthetic point of view (although the enjoyment of art for the sake of art is valid). Without deducting its artistic values, this meeting with the origin of life should be assumed – as stated in the back cover of the catalogue – “as an intelligent function of cooperation and alliance…”