Servando Cabrera Moreno is without a doubt, one of the classics of modern Cuban painting. His immense work, full of variations and motifs, is representative of one of the most controversial episodes in Western history: the Cuban Revolution and the tropicalization of the socialist utopia. The shapes within his plastic universe are invariably filled with pleasure in a sustained climatic state. In the twists and turns of his language and discourse, the eroticism beats under the same operating logic as the continuous bass in the musical compositions of Johan Sebastian Bach or Vivaldi: impermissible and unattainable, is consumed in a silent, candid, electrifying, and outrageous permanence. From June 23 to July 21, Galería Habana presents a historiographical exhibition dedicated to this figure, representative of Cuban painting. Its title is Mírame así (Look at me like this), and the selection of works presented goes around two topics of apparent low tessitura within its creative agenda, the Habaneras and the Guajiros. This opportunity is commemorating the 55th anniversary of the founding of Galería Habana.
Some may wonder how the figure of this artist relates to such well known gallery, in a way that through one can the other be rightly judged. And this exhibition space has been responsible for promoting, not only the work of Servando Cabrera, but also that of his fellow countrymen, taking active participation in the management and visibility of modern Cuban art, from 1962 to the present day. This is the reason why Mírame así privileges the history or better still, the memory, along with the artistic, working as a test of undoubted culture-logical approach.
Let us then begin the journey within the proposed theme; we´ll find noble examples. Large canvas have been collected, along with posters and delicate designs. The selected thematic line, the work of Servando and his particular seal, illustrates a set of moments not of national history but of the current sensibility about the story of a particular historical period or event. The expressive feeling armed by the artist in each piece becomes an argument of a very well-defined time: they are the agitated years of courage, pride and the smell of transformation and green fruits. And in that moment the look is not bored, but with every step the sensation of the spectator is comparable to what happens with the discovery of a relic, a jewel, a different flavor, a chromatic tone of will. And that Servando with Mírame así, shows us once and for all, that his light is inexhaustible, as well as his essence.
The curatorial exercise deployed conveys investigative solidity, tenacity, and refinement. This is felt in the body of a narrative without great leaps, simple, and without doubts, forceful. It is to celebrate the high value of the work done by the specialized staff of the Servando Cabrera Library Museum, laborious hands with silk gloves that have woven this noble tribute.
But, as already mentioned, this exhibition has a task associated with the memory that, with the expository fact itself and the obligations imposed by chance, has become a deconstruction of history and the historical itself. Mírame así is completed itself with two pieces not belonging to the hand of Servando Cabrera. One of them consists of an audiovisual material that remembers, from archival images, the presence of the work of Servando in Galería Habana, the other one is the piece Disobedience by Alex Hernández and Ariamna Contino. And we must stop at the last one because its insertion in the present event promotes reflections that undoubtedly transcends it.
Disobedience, a large brick and cement monolith installed in the galleristic space by this renowned duo of Cuban contemporary artists, was presented at Galería Habana last April in connection with the exhibition Incomplete Record interested in analyzing the real possibilities of sculpture in the current artistic circuit. Contingency, after the closing of this exhibition, forced its permanence beyond the period of time established for its physical existence. We must not ignore the fact that contemporary art, that made in Cuba at least, is inextricably linked to production and that entails great efforts, in addition to the intervention of disciplines and instruments that transcend the merely artistic. The gallery then assumed the presence of this silent monolith in its entrails, and with it, the challenge that causes its insertion in other curatorial circuits, other expository events, in other matters in the long run. Suddenly, in the coexistence with pieces of Servando Cabrera and its dissimilar flavors, Disobedience intensifies its original objectives and it happens precisely in the complementarily with the audiovisual presented by the Library Museum Servando Cabrera. There appear original snapshots of Gallery Habana, with its stylized cylindrical column.
Disobedience is inserted successfully in the space of the experience and memory of this gallery, not without generating discomfort, and accompanies Servando as always, like a youthful and carefree wink: this is the present, our time, and we melt into it. And the past makes the present.
There are definitely substances besides that which –composed by atoms and molecules– contains us. There is the matter of memory: inapprehensible, imperishable, and powerful. And on it Mírame así and Disobedience discourse.
With regard to this exhibition, as a colophon will be presented a book that gathers the thematic area addressed within the work of Servando. Undoubtedly, Mírame así is a very good opportunity to recall and re-discover in the unforgettable and imperishable body of Cabrera Moreno, the strings that sustain our senses, in his unstoppable journey to satiety.
–Luis Enrique Padrón