Wild Noises from Bronx in Havana
Wild Noises from Bronx in Havana
Every year hundreds of tourists visit Cuba’s National Museum of Fine Arts (MNBA is the Spanish acronym) so as to admire the rich visual heritage of this small Caribbean island and the magnificent collection of international art showcased by the institution, with special emphasis, for instance, on the Greek ceramics hall, which features one of the most comprehensive collections in the Continent. These elements are presently accompanied by a new attraction. This is the first time that original pieces from New Yorker Bronx’s Museum of Art (BxMA) can be observed at the Cuban capital city, as part of the first exchange between this kind of institutions in over 50 years.
Making this project come true has taken a long time, according to Cuban curator Corina Matamoros, who has organized the project along with her compatriot Aylet Ojeda, Holly Block, executive director of BxMA, and Sergio Bessa, director of curatorial and educational programs with BxMA.
“We couldn’t do it in Florida. There is an official decree that prohibits funding projects linked to Cuba. Afterwards, we did some research in the community of New York, since it’s more open and progressive. We talked to high officials, but we didn’t find support to the project. In 2011 we contacted Holly and she was the first one to accept the exchange. So this idea had been conceived way before the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries. By means of a curatorial and museology approach, we have been able to establish a relation model with such a country as the United States, thus opening a way that didn’t existed”, Matamoros explained.
On the other hand, Holly Block pointed out that the project is very important because of the bonds it fosters among artists, young students, specialists and viewers. Block, who has previously visited Cuba and published her book entitled “Art Cuba: The New Generation” in 2001, said that sometimes, when she is here, she feels like she’s at the Bronx and vice versa because there are similar points between both realities. “Wild Noise”, BxMA’s display with nearly a hundred original pieces created by 54 contemporary artists, sheds light on the cultural diversity of that New Yorker neighborhood, and the great iconographic similarities with the Cuban reality.
The exhibit is made up of artworks created by applying different techniques and formats, which narrate the singularity of the life of Afro-American, Asian and Latin communities established to the north area of the famous island of Manhattan. A school blackboard authored by Willie Cole and hanged at the entrance of the hall, says viewers that they are about to begin a polysemous and varied visual journey. Question How do you spell America?, with a significant load of social response, kicks off the tour.
So, we can see Little Red Book 7, a series of Polaroid pictures taken in 1970 by prestigious Andy Warhol, one of the pioneers of Pop Art. On the other hand, Trademarks is a photomontage in white and black by Vito Acconci, an artist that influenced Cuban conceptual art and established close work relations with such Cuban creators as Lazaro Saavedra.
Sanford Biggers’ xylography shows a closed fist that has an Afro comb on the other edge, a symbol of strength and identity. Chinese Zhang Hongtu with his Lipstick Mao shows a singular technique in which he includes magazine paper, soy sauce and red lipstick. Likewise, viewers will see works created by Cuban-American artists Ana Mendieta and Emilio Sanchez. Meanwhile, David Hammons’ flag, similar to the North American one but featuring the colors of an African insignia, announces outside of MNBA that there is a “Wild Noise” in there.
Video art, pictures, paintings, sculptures, installations and engravings describe Bronx’s urban context, its architecture, society and people, the guiding premises of this group of artworks.
The project, with high economic cost because of the insurance and transfer of the pieces, includes the exhibit of a significant sample of Cuban art from MNBA, in March 2016 at the BxMA, yet it’s not sure. Matamoros explains that Cuba must be officially removed from the list of terrorism sponsor countries and then they have to ask for a special permission to the State Department so it guarantees the security and protection of Cuban cultural heritage on US soil.
So far, Cuban art exhibitions in the United States have been personally arranged by artists and collectors, but a Cuban heritage collection has never been sent to that country with an institutional character, since it could be confiscated. The cultural bridge already stands between both shores; it only needs a bidirectional flow.
Mary Mattingly (USA) and Humberto Diaz (Cuba) have been chosen to create new artworks within the framework of the exchange. After several attempts, Mattingly arrived in Cuba along with 60 North American citizens that are members of the project and had never visited the island nation. She suggested Pull, an idea with environmental, ecological and social connotations by creating a sustainable survival space.
The piece is made up of two segments: one is covered by the shadow of trees at the Central Park, and the second one is housed by the MNBA. During the making process she got in touch with several Cubans and learned a lot about their culture and religion.
“I’ve lived a wonderful experience during the making process of the sculptures, because finding the materials is a difficult task and that actually changes the way I had conceived them, since I’ve had to modify the design depending on the material I can find. The architecture is one of the things I’ve liked the most and the fact that the things they throw away here are different from wastes in the USA. There are lots of plastic, rocks, broken pieces of ceramics and I’ve been collecting everything, which has changed my aesthetic. I’m truly fascinated by everything I see here, houses, streets, everything is very symbolic and beautiful at the same time”, Mattingly explained.
Within the next months, Humberto Diaz will be creating his artwork at the Bronx. MNBA had previously hosted exhibits from the northern country, such as collective “A Multiple Approach”, “One Race” by Mario Sanchez and “How We See You (And How They See Us)” by US photographer Jeffrey Cardenas and Cuban teenager Yanela Piñeiro. Nevertheless, “Wild Noise” is the first representation of a Museum. Holly Block has announced the planning of a project related to Cuba’s National Hero, Jose Marti.
Written by Nadia Herrada Hidalgo, PanamericanWorld. Havana