|C U B A N
S E L F - T A U G H T A R T
Cojendo Alto por los Cuernos
(Havana, Cuba, b. 1970),
Oil on canvas (20 x 20), 2010
Price on request
Indigo Arts exhibits the work of a wide range of Cuban artists, most of them self-taught. Collecting this work introduced us to a large and diverse country, its art and its artists, which are at once tantalizingly close and shamefully unfamiliar to us. We are excited and gratified by the work we have found in Cuba, and are pleased to be able to bring it to a new audience. In March 2009 we hosted Visiones 2: New Art from Cuba, our sixth show of work from Cuba. In October 2003 we celebrated the third year of the city-wide El Festival Cubano with a new exhibit of Cuban art, featuring the work of José Garcia Montebravo , José Fuster and others. In the fall of 2001 we exhibited a new collection of work by self-taught painters at our Philadelphia gallery as part of the first El Festival Cubano celebration. In the fall of 2002 we participated again, with Por un Mundo Mejor/For a Better World, an exhibition of the artists of Grupo Bayate, from Santiago de Cuba. Artists Luis "El Estudiante" Rodriguez and Roberto Lameda were present at the opening reception on October 4, 2002.
Our collection includes work from such old masters as the late Ruperto Jay Matamoros from Havana and the feisty old primitivista painter Abel Perez Mainegra from the historic colonial town of Trinidad. Chomping on a large cigar, he explained to us the story of each of his intensely populated historical paintings, and his portraits of Fidel, Jesus, Jose Marti and others. But we found many exciting newer and/or younger painters as well, ranging from Pelly (Pedro Blanco Aroche) in the far western state of Pinar del Rio to the father and son artists Luis Joaquin Rodriguez Arias and Luis Joaquin Rodriguez Ricardo from near Santiago de Cuba in the far Oriente (featured in the June 11, 2000 New York Times article, Ebullient Cubans Make a Lot Out of a Little).
The collection gives particular emphasis to the work of artists from the southern Cuban city of Cienfuegos, including Fito (Adolfo Flores Gonzalez), Arnaldo Garcia Rodriguez, José Garcia Montebravo, Jorge Sanfiel and Wayacon (Julian Espinosa). We went to Cienfuegos in search of painter José Garcia Montebravo, whose haunting, spiritual work we exhibited at Indigo Arts the last two years. His work is permeated with images of infantas, orishas and the mysteries of santeria. We were fortunate to meet not only Montebravo but a group of other self-taught artists. Painter Fito was showing his comical paintings on the theme of erotismoat a cooperative gallery. We found the delicate and fanciful paintings of Jorgé Sanfiel and work by Cubas wildest outsider of all, Wayacon. His enigmatic mixed-media paintings incorporate melted wax, wood, and even spoons, as well as paint on canvas. To read more about our experience in Cuba, with photographs of Cuba and several of the artists read our Notes from Cuba from our March 2000 visit.
We found one of our favorite Cuban outsider artists, Mario Mesa, living in the United States. Born in Cuba, Mesa arrived in the United States on the Mariel Boatlift of 1980. Like many of the marielitos, he had been a political prisoner in Cuba, and lived a very hard life. I was abandoned at birth. I was poor and couldnt go to school. I never played the games children play. I was always working. He started painting in the United States after being hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. When I got sick I lived in the streets. I had always been very neat and clean, but everything changed. When I got better I had to help myself. I started painting to give something back. Thanks to painting I got better.