THEY COME FROM HAVANA. THEY GREW UP IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS AND TODAY THEIR NAMES HAVE MARKED THE HISTORY OF CONTEMPORARY CUBAN ART IN THE LAST FIVE DECADES. MANUEL MENDIVE (1944), JOSÉ BEDIA (1959), RENÉ PEÑA (1957), MARTA MARÍA PÉREZ BRAVO (1959), RAÚL CORDERO (1971) AND JUAN ROBERTO DIAGO (1971) BELONG TO THREE GENERATIONS OF ARTISTS IN WHICH EACH ONE OF THEM HAS MADE A DIFFERENCE.
BEDIA’S WORK, NOW INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED, WENT ON TO DEVELOP A COMPLEX “COSMOGRAPHY” (ORLANDO HERNÁNDEZ) IN WHICH PRIMITIVE EXPRESSION REVEALED A RESOLUTELY CONTEMPORARY NARRATIVE.
JOSÉ BEDIA (La Habana, 1959)
In a very low voice, almost as if whispering, the Cuban-American artist José Bedia has been committed—for years—to rescuing orality, leaving his mark by plotting a map across his visual work, grounded in the language of drawing and painting, a symbolic map of the oral transmission of knowledge, which is a constant feature that has always been among the utopian and methodological premises of his work. Bedia builds his work upon an operation of archaeology and restoration of his anthropological studies on how ‘primalist cultures’ survive nowadays, in conjunction with how popular cultures survive the civilisational advance of social progress as an homogeneising machinery. In this regard, the artist is a recorder who notes down endemic marks that tend to disappear from the strata that make up our voracious omnivorous cultures. These transatlantic cultures are permeated by Africanity, Hispanicness and Aboriginality—a mixture in perpetual mutation, in an infinite movement of self-definition.
JUAN ROBERTO DIAGO (La Habana, 1971)
Roberto Diago is one of the most recognized contemporary artists in Cuba. Born in 1971, he trained at the San Alejandro Academy in 1990 and works as Consultant Professor at the Higher Institute of Art, Havana.
The everyday is the material of his work, he makes use of the materials that the day to day offers him and gives them a symbolic charge in an act of cultural resistance. His work reflects his interest in the legacy of African culture brought by slaves to Cuba, and how it is presented in today’s Cuban society.
He has recently had important exhibitions such as his solo at the Lowe Museum in Miami. A regular figure in the best art fairs in the United States and Latin America, he has also shown his work at fairs such as ARCO Madrid or FIAC Paris, as well as at the Venice, Havana and Dakar biennials. He has work in the National Museum of Havana, Deste Foundation in Athens, Brownstone Foundation in Paris, CIFO Collection in Florida, Boston Fine Arts Museum or Jorge M. Pérez Museum in Miami, among many other internationally renowned collections.
MANUEL MENDIVE (La Habana, 1944)
The works of Manuel Mendive, capture the breath of the manifestations and the ritual expression that have been a distinguishing trait of modern Cuban art since W. Lam.
As an almost telluric emanation from his studio-shelter in Monte Blanco, his work has always been the voice of nature pierced by time in the form of primal reminiscences, viewings of a metamorphic, transubstantiated universe where beings, animals, plants, objects, landscapes… have turned into a wholeness of interdependent geneses that give shape to his unquestionable, personal poetics.
RENÉ PEÑA (La Habana, 1957)
He is possibly the most important photographer in Cuba today. Self-taught, he is a member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba and of the Advisory Council of the Photo Library of Cuba. He currently lives and works in Havana.
Peña was never interested in photojournalism, even when he rejected the notion of purely aesthetic photography. From his first solo shows in the early 1990s it was apparent that he was searching for some kind of deeper truth.
The central issue of his photographic series is the relationship established between individuals and institutions (family, education, political parties, religion …).
René Peña has participated in important events such as the biennials in Los Angeles, Havana or Curitiba. With exhibitions at the Wifre do Lam Art Center in Havana or at the CAAM (Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno) in Las Palmas.
His work can be found in numerous collections around the world, including the National Museum of Havana, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Throckmorton Fine Arts in New York or the Faber Collection in Florida.