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The Borders of Choco / Miguel Iturria Savón

January 4, 2011 Leave a comment

The Villa Manuela Gallery extended until the end of November the exhibition Beyond the border, of the painter and engraver Eduardo Roca Salazar (Choco), who according to N. Echevarria, “returns to drawing and even makes a foray into three dimensionality through a set of “sculptured” figures, the inclusion of “Choir” (2010), anchored in earlier works, in which collagraphy forms a structural axis.”

Choco, like Fabelo, Medive or Sosabravo is an artist with his own style and identity, indeed quite oversized. He belongs to the generation of the seventies and studied at the School of Art Instructors and the National Art School, which, combined with his talent and hard work opened institutional spaces within and outside the island.

His resume includes prizes, citations and awards for his prints in exhibitions in Bulgaria, Cuba, Spain and Japan; personal and collective exhibitions in and beyond our island, and works in collections of museums and art institutes in Havana, Chicago, Mexico, Palma de Mallorca, Tama, Kochi (Japan) and Germany.

Human representation is at the center of the eleven pieces that Choco displays, which plunges us into the imaginary intimacy of dark syncretic faces, reaffirmed in earth tones, natural sienna, black and white as a contrast. Their faces and asymmetric bodies — male, female or hybrids — seem to say that beauty is in the information and the artistic sense, highlighted by the relationship between figure and background.

Although Choco studied painting and triumphed with his prints, years ago he showed a preference for collagraphy and sculptures of glued paper, which require perseverance, craft, and a love of manual meticulousness, enriched by the composition and the work of color in each offering, whose corporeality and expression infers eroticism and vitality.

His geometric symbolism in “Reflejos” (2004-2010), made up of four medium-sized pieces of mixed media, appears as if looking through glass, not water. In these profiles can be seen traces of African features, palpable in a previous series of great visual intensity, such as the sculptures “Juegos de Cabeza”  and “Bemba Colora”, tied to the ethnic origin of the creator.

The sculpture “Abrazos”  (glued paper of 158 by 40 and 22 cm), asymmetric and symbolic, demonstrates mastery of the body and offers readings that break from the sensuality and texture of the piece; while in “La Siesta”, a work of background and figure, the color and technique enhance the expression, enriched by stripes, lines and numerical indications that hint at hidden messages.

In mixed-media creations such as “Beyond the Border “, “The Wall That Surrounds Us”, “Silence” and “Torso”, Choco demonstrates his figurative mastery in the exploration of the tactile, addressed in a number of sculptures, prints and collagraphs that travel from lyricism to a subtle everyday intimacy, but evade other realities.

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Translated by Rick Schwag

November 28 2010

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Caged Educators / Miguel Iturria Savón

December 22, 2010 Leave a comment

The eminent Cuban essayist and educator Enrique José Varona, Secretary of Public Education during the U.S. occupation government (1899-1902), said: “The job of the teacher is to teach people how to work with their hands, with their eyes, with their ears, and then, with their thoughts”

The aphorism remains relevant after half a century of gambling on creating a ‘New Man’, out of which  emerges the opposite: apathy, lack of values, extreme hedonism, and other childish growths that certify the dissonance between words and deeds.

In these December days, the island press releases a flood of slogans about education, since the 22nd is the Day of the Teacher.  are Lowered from their bronze pedestal are worthies like Jose Marti and E.J Varona, whose phrases come in handy for teachers and professors, who bear the guilt of our disastrous educational system, although nobody consulted them to formulate educational policy, still based on utopias that try to annul individual initiative by means of state indoctrination, militant asceticism, promoting accessories, and the habit of obeying without question.

A government that had the luxury of closing the Teachers Normal School, and sending prospective teachers to study under palm leaves in the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, does not end by finding a path of balance in such an important area.  The syndrome of the emergency and the barbed wire of censorship of school textbooks, marches forward along with the poison of ideological propaganda, the lack of school materials and the devastating outlook of the country, where it encourages servile complicity and a denunciation of diversity of thinking.

Teaching is one of the pillars of the Castro regime, which uses indoctrination with media propaganda, adorned in turn by the precepts of cultural institutions, in tune with the monotonous discourse of power, able to punish political difference, insult those who express themselves without masks, and makes up for the lack of arguments with outdated slogans and dogmas.

An education system that instills loyalty to the leader, forces children to take an absurd oath and excludes from universities those who do not support their revolutionary pedigree, is like a barricade against intelligence, creativity and individual development.

Like on every Dec. 22, teachers wait for their presents and the authorities ring the bells about the wonders of the educational system in Cuba. They forget, however, the phrase of Varona about teaching how to work with thoughts, and the maxim of Marti about the respect for freedom and the thinking of others

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Translated by Rick Schwag

December 22, 2010