Abstract Art, CINTAS Fellows, and “A Curatorial Gambit”

Rafael Soriano, Motivos del mar, 1953

Courtesy CINTAS Fellows Collection

Next week, the Coral Gables Art Museum opens Between the Real and the Imagined: Abstract Art from CINTAS Fellows.

Organized by Elizabeth Cerejido—independent curator, PhD candidate in art history, and director of the Dialogues in Cuban Art program—the exhibition includes work by 27 artists, drawn from the CINTAS collection and other holdings.

Here, Cerejido previews the exhibition and talks about the thinking behind it, and what makes the CINTAS collection unique in Cuban art.

How did you decide to focus on abstraction?

It was a theme that would allow me to zero in on a limited number of works and create a framework from which to curate—especially given the time and spatial constraints under which this project has been organized.

On that note—this is not a show that aims to make a sweeping claim about abstraction in Cuban art. That is a subject that’s too broad and encompassing to address under the limitations of the show. Instead, this exhibition is more an exploration about the language of abstraction within the very specific boundaries of the work of CINTAS Fellows.

Luis Mallo, from the In Camera series, 2001–04

Courtesy CINTAS Fellows Collection

My approach was to ask the question, and then try to create a narrative or set of narratives around a group of very disparate works by artists from across different generations, aesthetic concerns, and artistic practices.

So, call it a curatorial gambit/exercise, if you will.  Many of these artists, particularly the contemporary Fellows, do not set out to create “abstract” works.

How would you describe the position of abstraction in the broader evolution of Cuban art? 

Modern Cuban art from the first half of the 20th century was dominated by the two generations of painters known as the vanguardia. Broadly speaking, they embraced figuration or some form of representational language that was also fitting for their underlying nationalist purpose.

By the late 1940s and certainly into the 1950s, that visuality and function had become bankrupt. This is why an artist like Mario Carreño (a CINTAS Fellow), while part of the second generation of vanguardia painters, began to explore the language of abstraction. Not only for its…

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