Rigoberto Díaz, Mesa del Consejo de Ministros, Museo de la Revolución (Table of the Council of Ministers, Museum of the Revolution), 2012, from the Obverse series
Courtesy Galería Habana

This summer, Galería Habana features an exhibition of photo-based works by 13 young and emerging Cuban artists. At the invitation of gallery director Luis Miret, curator Elvia Rosa Castro issued an open call for work by young and unknown artists, outside any preconceived aesthetics or conceptual interests. The criteria were simply that the artists were either young in age (born in the 1990s), or if not young, unknown in art and gallery circuits or not known as photographers.

As curator, Elvia Rosa wanted to point up the topics and artmaking strategies that young Cuban artists are exploring. The result is a varied and wide-ranging show of works selected purely on the basis of quality. Though no central theme was imposed on the selection, Castro noted that “many of the works have in common a sense of historical investigation, or explore the archives of history.” But, she says, she wanted some of everything, so the final selection includes visual abstractions, publicity-inspired images, journalistic works, and landscapes, among other themes.

The title of the exhibition, Tócate [touch yourself], comes from Cuban slang, with “tócate” sometimes used to mean “13,” to avoid saying the unlucky number. It can also mean “help yourself to a drink”—preferably alcoholic. The lucky 13 artists in the show are Kenia Arguiñao, Álvaro José Brunet, Donis Dayán, Rigoberto Díaz, Angélica Ermus, Jesús Hernández, Julio César Llópiz, Jorge Otero, Ernesto Quintana, Néstor Siré, Ranfis Suárez, Senén Tabares, and Rafael Villares.

Here’s a sampling of works in the show, with comments by the curator.

Rigoberto Díaz, Mesa del Consejo de Ministros, Museo de la Revolución (Table of the Council of Ministers, Museum of the Revolution), 2012, from the Obverse series (above)

To document by means of a photographic exercise a grouping of desks that carry a symbolic charge. The action functions as a scanner with the intent of revealing the invisible surface of the object. Showing what is hidden “under the table” serves as a declaration of the informational space.

Alvaro Brunet. INRI, 2013
Courtesy Galería Habana

Alvaro Brunet, INRI, 2013

An ironical commentary on the relation of martyrdom and sacrifice with the military world. Paradox between Christian discourse and military discourse.

Nestor Siré. Siete pasos sencillos para romper un límite (Seven simple steps to break a limit), 2012
Courtesy Galería Habana

Nestor Siré, Siete pasos sencillos para romper un límite (Seven simple steps to break a limit), 2012

The “limit” is a concept that does not exist without space. These steps are modified to create limitations that alter and reorient behavior.

Ranfis Suárez, Pinky Arrow, from the series Muela bizca, 2012
Courtesy Galería Habana

Ranfis Suárez, Pinky Arrow, from the series Muela bizca, 2012

Ready made. The historic photo of José Martí is presented as it was taken, with a fly on his suit jacket. Historically, we know the edited version of the photo. To highlight a caustic and ordinary element in a traditionally immaculate photo becomes a revision of history and a perverse exercise.

Jorge Otero, Pensamiento histórico (Historical Thought), from the series War Hero, 2013

Establishes a relation between the nude and the anonymous heroes of the Cuban war of independence (1895-1898): the guerrilla peasant war heroes.

Tócate runs through August 23 at Galería Habana.

Jorge Otero, Pensamiento histórico (Historical Thought), From the series War Hero. 2013
Courtesy Galería Habana


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Nadine Covert
Nadine Covert is a specialist in visual arts media with a focus on documentaries. She was for many years the Executive Director of the Educational Film Library Association (EFLA) and Director of its American Film Festival, then the major documentary competition in the U.S. She later became director of the Program for Art on Film, a joint venture of the J. Paul Getty Trust and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Covert has served on the board of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, and is currently a consultant to the Montreal International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA).