Tuesday July 29, 2014

Summer in Havana: 4 Shows at the Museo Nacional

Welcoming Cundo Bermúdez, Salvador Dalí, African-American abstraction and more

It’s a busy season for the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. The end of July and beginning of August will see the opening of four new shows, and a number of panel discussions and presentations.

Art appraiser and collector Alex Rosenberg curated the first show to open: Memorias del Surrealismo (Memories of Surrealism), which debuted on July 24. The exhibition’s 95 prints are taken from a number of series, including “Viaje fantastico” (Fantastic Voyage), “Dalí interpreta a Currier y a Ives” (Dalí interprets Currier and Ives), “La Divina Comedia,” and “Los doce tribus de Israel” (The Twelve Tribes of Israel). The show marks the 25th anniversary of the artist’s death.

In an exhibition essay, Rosenberg, who was a personal friend of the artist, described the difficulties in the printing process for the title series, “Memorias del Surrealismo.” “From the disaster emerged a very successful engravings portfolio with three different processes of printing,” he wrote. “Nobody ever knew the mistakes we made and we were congratulated for having been so clever while selecting our editing methods.”

Cundo Bermúdez, Barber Shop, 1942

Courtesy arcthemagazine.com

On August 8, the third-floor galleries of the MNBA’s Arte Cubano building, currently closed, will open for a special exhibition: what curator Roberto Cobas Amate describes as the “historic rescue” of “one of the greatest Cuban painters of the 20th century.” Presented on the centenary of his birth, Cundo Bermúdez: passion y lucidez (Passion and Clarity) is the artist’s first full-scale exhibition at the museum. “Cundo deserves that both the critics and the public recognize the validity and the strength of his work,” says Cobas Amate. “He should be placed at the same level as Mariano and Portocarrero. He participated in the legendary exhibition Pintores cubanos modernos at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the New York critics were very favorable towards him.”

Opening this Thursday, July 31, at the museum, A ambos lados del Atlántico (On Both Sides of the Atlantic) celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Hispanoamerican Cultural Center of the Office of the Historian of Havana. Drawn from the Center’s collection, the show features 25 prints and drawings by Spanish, Mexican, and Cuban artists, set in dialogue to reveal the various aesthetic currents that shaped Hispanoamerican art in the 20th century. Among the artists on view are Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, Amelia Peláez, and Joan Miró, as well as later artists.

Artist Ben Jones, a cultural promoter and longtime friend of Cuban art and artists, is one of three co-curators of Artistas afronorteamericanos y abstracción (African-American Artists & Abstraction). He’s also one of the show’s nine artists, along with his co-curators Nanette Carter and Melvin Edwards. The other artists are Willie Cole, Victor Davson, Bill Hutson, Senga Nengudi, Howardena Pindell, and the late Jayne Cortez, to whom the show is dedicated. Several of the artists will be on hand for the opening, which takes place this Friday, August 1, at 4 p.m. at the museum’s Universal Art Building. From July 31 through August 5, they’ll be presenting a series of conferences, talks, and panels at the museum to explore African roots in both cultures.

The exhibition and the artists’ journey to Havana is being documented in video. Here’s a trailer for the work-in-progress, which introduces several of the artists and their work.