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?