It was in 1925 that painter Víctor Manuel García came from Europe with his painting La Gitana Tropical, viewed as the start of modern art in Cuba. However, it was not until 1927 that the Grupo Minorista (the “Minority Group”) and the Revista de Avance [an avant-garde journal], as part of a movement of intellectual innovation, organized a New Art exhibition that aimed to incorporate our art into the great tendencies of the time, but without abandoning its Cuban essence. Eduardo Abela, Carlos Enríquez and Marcelo Pogolotti were all part of that.
National art was reaffirmed in the 1940s; for the first time, the criollo, or native-born Cuban, aspect was expressed, and new tendencies, currents and styles enriched the national art scene. Baroque elements in line and color kept us in harmony with what was being produced internationally.
As a Cubist artist, Amelia Peláez painted railings and colonial stained-glass windows; Mariano and Portocarrero examined everyday life in the city, and Wifredo Lam came back to Cuba to paint The Jungle, where Picasso and African culture came together in his particular style of surrealism. During that period, what was most appreciated were strictly pictorial values.
Sculptors sought a social audience in an urban environment, and works included those made by Rita Longa and Florencio Gelabert; the Association of Engravers of Cuba was founded by Carmelo González.
By the time of the 1959 Revolution, the abstract movement promoted by the group of Los Once (“The Eleven”) had been gaining ground for almost a decade: Hugo Consuegra, Guido Llinás and Antonio Vidal, among others, were part of that.
In the liberating movement of that time, numerous cultural institutions were created; all generations and forms of poetry coexisted, giving rise to real diversity in making art. Epic, abstract works were created, including pop, magical, and new figuration, and a climate of creativity formed amid different controversies and approaches. Along with the masters, artists included Raúl Martinez, Servando Cabrera, Acosta León, and Antonia Eíriz; sculptors like Mateo Torriente and Osneldo García; engravers like Umberto Peña and Alfredo Sosa Bravo. The engravers’ movement was strong.
The Escuela Nacional de Arte (National Art School) graduated its first students; a wide variety of aesthetic ideas came out of the new aesthetic, ethical and social goals; expressionism, photorealism and Afro-Cuban elements characterized the work of Pedro Pablo Oliva, Nelson Domínguez, Flora Fong, Roberto Fabelo , Ever Fonseca and Manuel Mendive; José Villa created sculpture; it was the so-called 70s generation.
Another approach, especially for showing art, emerged in the 80s after the Volumen1 Exhibition promoted by Flavio Garciandía, leading a team of young people. Their space was unbounded; various genres were combined; artists were concerned with theory and public participation.
The conceptual legacy of the 80s was expressed in the enthusiasm over installations that continued in subsequent years; there was a return to the trade, because an attempt at marketing was made. The object was now finished and aesthetically pleasing, emphasizing the content of the message; it was an art committed to human beings and their circumstances, metaphors, satire and irony, and the used of new technologies reaffirmed Cuban contemporary art.
The conceptual richness of Ernesto Rancaño; the metropolitan vision of Luis E. Camejo; the graphics constructed in the objects of Abel Barroso; the self-references in the work of artists Mabel Poblet, Cirenaica Moreira and Sandra Ramos, to name just a few, allow us to appreciate the value and level of Cuban contemporary art.