It didn’t take long for us to realize the immensity of the museum. For the most part, we looked at post-revolutionary works.The works appeared to be organized primarily by time period and by artist. I did notice some socialist surrealism and a significant amount of paintings commemorating Che or Fidel. In fact, a recurring theme throughout was the depiction of the worker. A painting that stood out to me was the artists Punjuan and Renée Francisco Rodriguez’s Productivismo. This painting depicts a worker dressed as and in the stance of a miner or construction worker. Yet instead of holding a shovel or a pickaxe, the figure is holding a paint brush that comes out of the confines of the painting and is becomes a 3-D sculpture. For me, this work was emblematic of the idea that everyone, at least in theory, is a worker.
Not only in its facilities, but in the quality of the works. My favorite work was El danzón, by Manuel Mendive, located on the second floor. There are many paintings about the revolution and socialist realism (for example, Milicias campesinas, by Servando Cabrera Moreno). Throughout the third floor there was an exhibition dedicated to agrarian reform and slavery.
Many subjects we studied appeared in the museum, such as sugar production and racism. I discovered an interesting irony in the relationship between art and censorship. For me, it makes no sense that art can thrive in a country with so much censorship and regulation. However, the country develops art in different ways, not only in paintings but in the theater, movies and music. Perhaps, in the midst of this irony of the coexistence of freedom and regulation, the most beautiful art can develop.
I had seen the museum before but I was so impressed again, and I actually believe that all the exhibits were different. For me, the most interesting part has to do with Cuban identity, from several perspectives. Some examples of prominent themes are African genetics and identity, which is different than Creole white, myths and poetry, and the third world. First, the particular work that interested me the most was “Giving and Giving” by Belkis Ayón and Ángel Ramírez.
Colonialism and the interaction between the colonizers and the victims of the system is a deep issue of Cuba and Latin America generally. This work shows the European and the African, and the darkness on both sides complicates the idea of single victims. Artistically, there are classic elements of the conqueror of the 16th century and also Afro-Cuban influence with Abakuá art.
For me as a photographer, I was also shocked by the photos, especially portraits and the part about the sugar harvest. There were photographic campaigns of agricultural workers in the twentieth century. One part juxtaposed hard faces with ruins of the countryside to highlight the working character of the Cuban people. Others, such as Enrique de la Uz at the end of the century, showed the role of sugar today and the human side of agriculture. I saw a lot in common with “I am Cuba” with respect to the good treatment of the farmers
It was thematically organized from what I could tell. On the second floor, most of the works were abstract and a bit unsettled, with strong and dark colors. On the third floor, I saw what I think were examples of socialist realism – images of the military, weapons, and historical figures. Everything was of a very high artistic quality. I bought some prints of paintings for 4 CUC ($4) each. Based on the prices of art, books, and tickets to the theater or cinema, it is very clear that the state values art as something essential, because it is attainable for ordinary people in a way that is typically not the case here. I would guess that the same prints would have come out to a minimum of $20 each here, and perhaps more.
I loved the Museum of Fine Arts. I found it interesting that there were so many pieces of art about race, as well as pieces related to the revolution. There were many pieces that, to me, seemed to be sending clearly negative messages about the way in which Cuban society treated blacks. I was a little surprised that some pieces were not “censored.” -Marisela
In the Museum of Fine Arts we could see many exhibitions, in fact we saw the change in the art as it began to focus on the revolution. In the art of the seventies and eighties, there are many that focus on the homeland and important figures of Cuban history. For example, José Martí and Fidel Castro. But there was also art that discussed race over the centuries. For example, there was a section that focused on sugar cane and many of the farmers were black. There is clearly a relationship between those who work with cane and their race, but it also focused on land reform. I believe that by focusing on the cane they were also appreciating the work that is taken to produce the sugar.
There’s a portrait of Che Guevara staring heroically into the distance, painted in black, red, green, and white. There’s also a picture of a black Cuban boxer standing victoriously over a blonde American boxer. Art in the contemporary gallery centers around political commentary. The lack of informative texts near the works or as gallery introductions leave me wanting more context. The pre-contemporary art is not as politically driven. There are a lot of portraits of people I assume were elites back in the day. It is so shocking to see the stark transition that took place just in artwork because of the revolution.
The art museum was huge. There were three floors of art displays. The first two floors were all post-revolutionary works. They were abstract and very intriguing. The artists played with a lot of different textures, sculptures, and colors. I really enjoyed the post-revolutionary works. Upstairs was the pre-revolutionary pieces and they were pretty dull. It was a lot of still life photos or portraits of famous figures.