It is good to see Cuban art gaining the reputation it deserves with an increasing number of exhibitions in London. Most notable was the retrospective at Tate Modern on Wilfredo Lam in 2017 while this summer there have been exhibitions of the work of Carlos Garaicoa at the Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art and of Agustin Cardenas, a younger contemporary of Lam, at the Almine Rech Gallery.
Cardenas was born in Mantazas, which I visited in the spring. Once a major centre for culture and the arts, known in the 19th century as the Venice of Cuba and the Athens of Cuba, with its wealth derived from it being the major trading port to the USA, it is now in a bad way, though there are signs that the current mayor is trying to encourage investment so that the town can restore something of its former glory. Being a major port with a large African population, originating from the slaves brought in by the Spanish, it was, like much of Cuba, multi-cultural and you can see this in his work, though he left Cuba for France before the revolution. There are also hints of the influences that appear in Wilfredo Lam’s work, particularly the elongated shapes in ‘Mon Ombre Apres Minuit).
The exhibition provides an excellent overview of Cardenas’ work from ‘La Negra’ in 1947 to the 1970′s and 80′s in bronze, marble and wood and you can place it into context with other artists at the time including Henry Moore, Brancusi and perhaps even Picasso, all of whose work he would have known.