Pop Art comes back to Cuba thanks to a collection of the Valencian Institute of Modern Art.
Emblematic European and American authors of Pop Art fill up the transitory hall of the National Museum of Fine Arts, in Havana, with half a hundred representative works of the most influential trends of contemporary art from the 1970s on. Pop Art in the collection of the IVAM (Valencian Institute of Modern Art, in English) is the title of the exhibition that goes, comprehensively, over the experience of this artistic movement.
Exhibited in Cuba for the first time, the 59 pieces show the European contributions to Pop Art, the interrelations between the authors from the United States and from Europe, specially the Valencian ones, as well as the predecessors and debtors of this aesthetic legacy, according to Consuelo Ciscar, head of the Valencian Institute of Modern Art and curator of the exhibition together with William Jeffet, curator of the Salvador Dalí Museum, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.
In the selection stand out the Spanish Eduardo Arroyo, the Crónica Team, Juan Genovés, the Realidad Team, Anzo, Josep Renau, Manuel Sáez, Antonio Saura and Juan Antonio Toledo, who recently passed away. As well are included Richard Hamilton, Jasper John, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Sigmar Polke, Robert Rauschenberg, Gherard Richter, Cindy Sherman, Guilles Aillaud, John Chamberlain, John Baldessari, Richard Bosman, the Argentinean Alberto Greco, Yves Klein, Richard Lidner, and Richard Prince. Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, who became famous for his oil paintings that imitated comic books’ vignettes, stayed out of the selection for not having been unavoidable referent for the European trend.
With a collection of more than 542 Pop Art works, the Valencian Museum has one of the most important assortments of this genre in Europe. The selected display gathers oil paintings, acrylic paintings, watercolor paintings, silk screen printings, installations, photographs, sculptures, photomontages, and collages produced by artists who are, nowadays, very significant for the history of the universal art, and who reflected the cultural contexts imposed by the postwar period, the Cold War, and the market. William Jeffet, an expert on the subject, highlights the special relationship between the Spanish creators, most of them Valencian, with other authors from the continent. About this aspect, he explains: “The concept of trend is useful because Pop Art was brewing simultaneously in different countries and can be divided into categories that go from Pop Art to Post Pop, New Realism, New Image, Narrative Figuration, or Critical Realism”.
The exhibition is divided into categories and the exploration begins by the precursors: Jasper John, Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Hamilton, member of the Independent Group. New Realism is represented by the American Claes Oldenburg, who made in 1961 the first of his monumental plastic sculptures that represent objects from the consumer society. At the same time, there are divergent artists from the line called Narrative Figuration, conformed by Rosenquist, Guilles Aillaud, Saura, and Eduardo Arroyo. The Germans Yves Klein, Richter, and Polke lead the trend of the Capitalist Realism, since they get closer to the immediate history of their country.
The Spanish Pop Art, within the category of Critical Realism, is represented by the work of the Crónica Team, the Realidad Team, Juan Genovés, Renau Anzo, Toledo, and Alberto Greco, whose pieces demystified the traditional figuration and deal with aspects of the social issues. In the section named Legacies of Pop appear Richard Prince, inspired by the images of publicity, and Manuel Sáez, who keeps the reproduction methods from an avant-garde narrative perspective. Meanwhile, John Baldessari, Cindy Sherman, Richard Bosman, and Richard Lidner, are the selected authors for demonstrating the incorporation of the cinematographic drama to Pop Art through photographs and paintings.
Besides using the images of the mass culture, Pop Art appropriated the techniques of the mass reproduction. Its poetics of combining conflicting referents such as the popular and the cult, together with the complicity of the serialized compositions, made it become an everyday, cosmopolitan artistic trend. The fusion of the market and the resulting products of the consumer society with the artistic, favored the appearance of new senses; the recreation of the everyday life made pop be an easy-to-access trend for the public.
The communicating vessels of Pop Art also got, in the very beginnings, to Cuba. One of the best known exponents is Raúl Martínez. The masters from both sides of the Atlantic get together from this moment and up to March, in Havana.
*Translated by: Adriana Pinelo Avendaño.