Juan Juan Almeida, 1 June 2015 — In 1984, at the suggestion of Armando Hart and Marcia Leiseca, Lilian Llanes, then the director of the Wilfredo Lam Center, the Biennial of Havana was created, and since then, the dialogue of the Revolution with Cuban culture has seen itself obligated to change, passing from an intense tone to a prudent one, and it’s truly regretful that our opposition hasn’t ever managed to capture the attention of this brotherhood.
The Government knows that no respectable social movement exists without artists in the vanguard, and it also knows that the Biennial is the place where artists get together to promote art.
What’s interesting is that this cultural rendezvous, the Twelfth Biennial, in addition to converting Havana into a world center for contemporary visual arts, and invading Havana with an artillery of paintings, regiments of video art, battalions of sculptures, squadrons of installations and platoons of performance art, is creating a new manner of communication and collaboration among artists residing on the Island and in Miami.
It’s good to know that the works of Manuel Mendive, Arles de Río, Roberto Fabelo, Rafael Pérez, Osmany (Lolo) Betancourt, Eduardo Abella and Luis Camejo, who these days get the attention of everyone on the Havana Malecón and other seats of the Biennial, were made in Miami, in the studio-casting ASU Bronze (Art & Sculpture Unlimited).
The question is: Why is it practically impossible in Cuba for drawings and sketches of plastic artists to materialize in the art of casting?
There’s a surplus of talent in Cuba. But the quality of production work in other places, the shortage of materials and inefficiency of the State, plus the fatigue from facing the constant complexity of everything associated with the production of a work in Cuba make the elaboration of a piece on the Island an exhausting process that doesn’t make it easy for artists to organize to fulfill commitments or establish deadlines for exhibitions.
Unfortunately for them (the artists) and, hopefully, new entrepreneurs will take note, there is only one business in all of Cuba that is dedicated to these requirements. To cast art is complicated: you need specific machinery, tools that are fabricated for a determined work, special instruments, access to raw material and other gear to complete the structure. Nor does there exist in the country a photography laboratory capable of offering a wide range of services that include printing on metal, wood or methacrylate.
Today Cuban artists make magnificent art that they try to show to the world, but when they leave Cuba and face the mega-exhibitions in New York or Paris – to mention only two examples – they find that the works exhibited have a deadline that they can’t meet on the Island.
To introduce works in international circuits, each time more demanding, requires fulfilling parameters and patrons of artistic production who they can only meet in workshops like the Factum Arte in Spain, which is dedicated to producing art for artists.
Then the Art & Sculpture Unlimited (ASU Bronze) appeared in Miami, which, in addition to being geographically and operationally closer to Cubans, offers solutions, accessible prices and competent completion. It counts on the exquisite supervision of Lázaro Valdés, an excellent sculptor who, by being educated in Cuba, understands perfectly the language of his profession, his nation and his generation.
Author: Juan Juan Almeida
Licensed in Penal Science. Analyst, writer. Awarded a prize in a competition of short stories in Argentina. In 2009, published “Memories of an Unknown Cuban Guerrilla,” a nonfiction work where he satirizes the decadence of the upper elite in Cuba.
Translated by Regina Anavy