Since 1959, within the new socialist system of Cuba, art has found a new place. In art. 38 of the Constitution launched in 1976 it is written that “forms of artistic expression are free”. Consistent with the desire to shape a new society, the Castro regime sought to enhance the means of expression that most easily reach the public, such as engraving and drawing: expressions that guarantee the enhancement of popular aesthetic taste and provide a original contribution to the massive literacy campaign that began in 1961. In order to spread culture, the vallas, huge signs structured according to the graphic taste developed in Cuba: handmade, some effigy revolutionary heroes. However, the most traditional artistic expressions have found a way to integrate themselves into collective processes in interdisciplinary works (architecture, painting, sculpture, poetry, of which the Embassy of Cuba in Mexico City, inaugurated in 1976, is an example) and in creations that also incorporate photography, cinema, sound.
In 1961 the first congress of UNEAC (Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba) raises the need to recover the native tradition: an active nationalism, which already from the new Castroist order has on its side mature artists who are among the initiators of painting modern Cuban, which began in 1927 with the return from Paris of Víctor Manuel, whose surname is García (1897-1969), who imports a painting close to Gauguin and the Fauves. In 1977 the Museo Nacional of Havana created a commemorative exhibition of the Exposición de Arte Nuevo, so important for the change of direction of Cuban art, which had been held in Havana fifty years earlier, in May 1927, sponsored by Revista de Avance, in which Víctor Manuel participated with other innovators, opposed to the conservative line of the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Alejandro in Havana (founded in 1818).
Since the beginning of the modernist experience, the Sociedad Cultural Lyceum has also been a firm support for the innovators, encouraging them with various initiatives and exhibiting their works. In 1935 the Salón Nacional de Pintura y Escultura was born.
According to simplyyellowpages, other initiators of Cuban modern art are: A. Peláez (1896-1968), a follower of Cubism, who in the period of the Vitrales series of paintings was inspired by the colored glass arranged like a fan in the round arches above doors and windows of old houses in Havana (the art gallery in the Lenín park in Havana today bears his name); E. Abela (1891-1965); Cuba Enríquez (1900-1957); M. Pogolotti (1902-1988). Some of them, from 1947 to 1950, had contributed to giving life to APEC (Agrupación de Pintores y Escritores Cubanos), which aimed to address national issues. W. Lam (1902-1982) was a member of it: his vaguely cubist surrealism masterfully represents the grafts that give rise to Cuban culture, in which the African component has a strong predominance. The figurative arts collect this component in the chromatic brightness, in the drumming rhythms of the compositions, in the frank manual skill. Lam’s painting, The Jungle, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, marks the achievement of this synthesis in the 1940s.
La Escuela de Plata, which brought together the painters Cuba Bermúdez (b.1914), M. Carreño (b.1913), Mariano (pseud. Of Mariano Rodriguez, 1912-1990), R. Portocarrero (b.1912), F Orlando (b. 1911) and L. Martínez Pedro (1910-1989), was the basis of the Havana school of painting from 1937 to the end of the 1940s, taking on Cuban themes and using figurative elements of their own tradition.
In the first five years of the 1950s, Carreño is one of the main exponents of abstract-geometric painting in Cuba; in a certain sense he is the initiator of abstractionism; then he settled in Chile. S. Darié (b. 1908), Romanian by origin, worked in those years in the field of Madì art, a geometric movement originating from Argentina, and later headed the kinetic research. The Grupo de los Once (young painters and sculptors) brings in the same period a beneficial wave of renewal; its members include H. Consuegra (b. 1930), R. Milián (b. 1914), A. Vidal (b. 1928), F. Jamís (b. 1930), who is also a sculptor and poet. The group will then expand, taking the name of Pintores Jóvenes Contemporáneos. M. Cerra (1904-1986) was a protagonist of this period.
The Fifties are characterized above all by the fervor with which the artists deepen their visual language: the period of Batista’s dictatorship (1952-1961) pushes them to isolate themselves in research; while, in the aftermath of the revolutionary victory, they poured out on the issues originated by the movement: this is the case, among others, of Mariano, Jamís, S. Cabrera Moreno (b. 1923), O. Yanes (n. 1926).
Like almost everywhere, sculpture in Cuba has experienced a slower evolutionary process than that of painting.
Lozano (b. 1912), an integral part of the La Escuela de Plata group, is one of the first to implement a renewal of forms. From the group of Los Once comes A. Cárdenas (b. 1927), who, having moved to Paris in 1955, continues to maintain the Cuban imprint in suggestively sensual forms. In 1978 the iv Encuentro Nacional de Escultores took place in Las Tunas, a city that promotes a Salón for sculpture and in which some artists, such as R. Longa (b. 1912), have created works in the urban space.
Until the advent of Castro, cultural life was concentrated in Havana; from that moment the activity of a network of galleries for the diffusion of art in the province was planned, and the Dirección de Artes Plásticas (section of the Dirección de Cultura, since 1976 Ministerio de Cultura) is in charge of the task. Also noteworthy is the establishment of art schools distributed throughout the island.