Installation by Ciro Quintana

Chronicles of a Cuban Artist

Ciro Quintana

Ciro Quintana in his element

Ciro Quintana (La Habana, 1964), is one of the reference artists of the second generation of the so-called Cuban Renaissance or New Cuban Art, an artistic movement that reached its peak during the decade of the 80s or “prodigious decade”, and that reinterpreted art as a social tool to promote self-criticism and reflect the social and political reality of Cuba at the time.

We could say that Ciro’s artistic career began with the group Puré; a collective that he formed along with his fellow artists Ana Albertina Delgado, Adriano Buergo, Ermi Taño and Lázaro Saavedra, and that broke into the Cuban artistic and social panorama of 1986, to become one of the most controversial and influential plastic groups of his time. Their journey as a group was brief, and the following year, in 1987, the members of Puré experienced a need for individuality as artists and decided to dissolve the collective to take separate paths. From this moment, Ciro’s work begins to take on a sense of installationism, inspired by the Puré group itself, which used the installation format as a demonstration of a new way of exhibiting art in a gallery.

In terms of its theme, the work of Ciro Quintana has always been closely related to the Cuban art world and its avatars; circumstances experienced by the artist personally, which he represents with sarcasm and mastery in each of his pieces. To present his ideas, Ciro draws his inspiration, and makes use of visual elements from such disparate origins as Greco-Roman mythology, Renaissance painting, Flemish Baroque, Pop Art and American comics; as well as icons of Cuban culture such as the bear, the caiman, the flamenco, the wolf, the snake, the deer and the image of the Republic.

The most important transformation brought by the New Cuban Art, which arose on the island since the late 1970s, was to orient culture towards social and political criticism (...) Since the mid-eighties something unusual was happening; plastic art, without forgetting its sense, substituted the functions of the assemblies and mass media (that were totally controlled), becoming a space to express the problems of the people.

Gerardo Mosquera (Havana, 1945). Art historian, curator and art critic.

“Chronicles of a Cuban artist” is one of the most iconic works of Ciro’s career, which he spent five years working on, between the years 2013 and 2017. The series is composed of seven pieces painted exclusively in oil on canvas, and fits effortlessly into the neo-baroque movement.

This heterogeneous work of allegorical nature invites the viewer on a journey to discover the chaotic and diasporic world of contemporary Cuban arts. The carnivalesque scenes, spliced with the satirical tones with which the work expresses itself, paint a theatrical portrait of the ongoing struggle for freedom, and the plight of the country in the wake of extreme sociopolitical turmoil.

Represented in the foreground, and emphasising the theatrical effect of the work, we can see the inclusion of elements such as the proscenium and the curtains, as essential parts of the stage where the action takes place. Violent hunting scenes (inspired by the XVII century Flemish school of painting), and Cuban women being kidnapped and bound at knifepoint are motifs which give symbolic reference to the status of contemporary Cuban culture.

The neo-baroque feeds on images that arise in the collective memory, images of cultural fragments whose context, however, is not reconstructed. Images that support and justify the demand for new structures, although surprising phenomena arise that have nothing to do with the "revival", but that evidently possess the same genetic codes.

Veit Loers (Germany, 1942). Writer, curator and art historian.

We now invite you to enter Ciro’s world and examine his artwork more closely for yourself. Central pieces, facing the installation, from left to right:

  • La caída del Ícaro (2017), oil on canvas, 198 x 142 cm.
  • La anunciación del arte cubano (2017), oil on canvas, 198 x 142 cm.
  • La burbuja del arte cubano (2017), oil on canvas, 198 x 142 cm.

The four square pieces enclosing the installation belong to the series “Details of Chronicles”. Standing facing the installation:

  • Upper left corner: En silencio ha tenido que ser, 2017 (Details) oil on canvas, 102 x 102 cm.
  • Lower left corner: Detalle de Crónicas, 2017 (Details) oil on canvas, 102 x 102 cm.
  • Upper right corner: El Premio, 2017 (Details) oil on canvas, 102 x 102 cm.
  • Lower right corner: El rapto de mi jardín, 2017 (Details) oil on canvas, 102 x 102 cm.