Yesterday, the Cuba Journal Blog posted about a recent TV program from Frontline/World on PBS. The short video segment was about a Cuba-based art group called Los Carpinteros (the carpenters) and their success in the international art market. This art group is considered by the renowned Tate galleries in Britain as "among the most important contemporary artists living and working in Cuba" [PDF]. Their work has been exhibited in New York City at the MOMA and Guggenheim Museum, and they have several other exhibitions planned around the world.
Currently, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is hosting "the most comprehensive retrospective of Cuban art ever held outside Cuba's borders." The grand exhibition includes Cuban colonial art from the 19th Century to more contemporary pieces, such as work from Los Carpinteros. Diane Foulds for the Boston Globe writes:
"The fact that Canada is hosting the exhibit and not the United States, even though US institutions have larger collections of Cuban art, is a subtle reminder of the price the US public is paying for the embargo."
In 2005, the University of South Florida's Contemporary Art Museum held an impressive survey of the work of Los Carpinteros. Unfortunately, a recent state law now bans Florida public universities from using their funds to travel to Cuba (and other nations selectively designated by the US as terrorist states) for academic purposes. As a result, university museum curators, like Noel Smith from USF, are not allowed to continue their work collaborating with other academics and artists from Cuba's contemporary arts scene. According to Smith, the university travel ban has "been very destructive" to USF's Institute for Research in Art. [The university travel ban is currently being disputed in Florida courts.]
When Frontline/World asked Marc Castillo from Los Carpinteros about politics in Cuba he said:
"I don’t want this country to be conservative and on the right; I’d like it to continue being socialist. But to the leftist fanatics, I would like to tell them that this is not the paradise that they dream it to be. This is a very difficult country, and it needs to change."
When asked specifically about change, he said: "A new government for starters." His partner from Los Carpinteros, Dago Rodriguez, immediately laughs at the suggestion.
But both agreed about US travel restrictions: "I don’t think it’s working in political terms... The only thing it’s doing is cutting the interchange of ideas, which is very important at this moment for this country... For both countries."
[Photo above of "Salon de Mai Mural" (1967) by Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam and exhibited at the Cuban Art exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Don't miss Wilfredo Lam currently at the Miami Art Museum.]