Regardless of where they are, in Cuba all Spaniards are Galiciansexcept canaries, which are islanders. Thus, José Carlos Nievas (Córdoba, 1966) and Ricardo Sánchez Cuerda (Madrid, 1974) are for Cubans two artists Galicians who have just exhibited their works and knowledge in the smallest museum of contemporary art in the world, the MAPRI (Art Museum of Pinar del Rio), a unique cultural institution that advertises itself in this way and is located in the capital of the westernmost province of Cuba. The director of MAPRI is the painter Juan Carlos Rodríguez, of Canarian origin, that is, “island pigeon”, and years ago he created the Farmacia Workshop, a project that defends art and artistic training as a “healing and healing process” that can change people and the world, and that it has been one of the spaces invited to be part of the XIV Havana Art Biennial.
To get to Pinar del Río from Havana, you have to travel 180 kilometers by road, two hours by car, which is enough for two Galicians realize many things. The photographer Juan Carlos Nievas (on his first trip to Cuba) and the set designer Ricardo Sánchez Cuerda (who has traveled to the island several times and participated in past editions of the Havana Biennial) made the round trip, and took In conclusion, what they experienced was a “lesson” and a “magnificent experience”.
“Current Cuba is a complex and contradictory country, to which, however, we continue to be united by deep cultural and emotional ties,” they say. “Within Cuba there is a modern and cosmopolitan society in Havana, with the possibility of solving life avoiding the infinity of obstacles placed in the way, full of diversity and a cultural life well known and supported by the system.” However, they observe, “a much more complicated reality is the one found outside the big cities, where access to culture encounters the difficulties of few means, poor communications and the disinterest of the institutions.”
For both artists it has been a pleasant surprise what they have seen in Pinar del Río as part of their collaboration with Taller Farmacia, which in this Biennial has presented a comprehensive program of exhibitions, seminars, theoretical meetings and collaborative actions based on the premise that from the pedagogy of art it is possible to reintegrate the human being to the earth as a poetic experience of reality.
For a decade, Juan Carlos Rodríguez took on the task of developing a school of visual arts in his city to train artists and help people with sensitivity to appreciate art, convinced of the “healing” and transforming power of his artistic initiative. pedagogical. He assures that in this time he has had the support of the authorities and cultural institutions of his province, and that Farmacia has been consolidated as a community artistic experience. In the last eight years, hundreds of children, teachers and artists have passed through this interdisciplinary workshop, which has allowed many people from Pinar del Río to observe the world with different eyes, something that Nievas and Sánchez Cuerda attest to, who had already collaborated with the MAPRI in the past.
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The works exhibited by both in Pinar del Río speak of contemporaneity and identity of the place. In the case of Nievas, with two pieces within the sample precision optics, no future Y black blood, the first, a video art made from portraits of people who anticipate the future and help build it; and the second, with portraits of artists and people from the independent music industry made with a very plastic and personal photographic language.
Sánchez Cuerda took the MAPRI tiesa participatory installation that explores the very meaning of art in society and its mutual commitment, and before -as part of the Biennial on-line developed outside Cuba due to the pandemic-, the piece Overlapping parallelisma metaphorical work in which he develops the fable of superimposed lives in different spaces and each one in turn with its own anxieties.
“For me, the experience has been shocking. The Pharmacy Workshop should be a model to be repeated in many places”, says Nievas, who, in addition to exhibiting his works, gave a conference on the history of creative photography, and two workshops, one for children based on photomontage, and a participatory workshop on revealed in which Pharmacy teachers and students were able to rehearse and practice discovering techniques and creating their first photographic impressions.
“The workshops I have given have been incredible, due to the number and level of attendees, and their receptivity. The best experience I have had in this aspect in my career”, does not hesitate to affirm the Cordovan photographer, who in Cuba is just one more “Galician”, like Sánchez Cuerda.
Both say that in Farmacia they found works by some local artists who, if they worked in Spain, would be figures in the art world. “Today, this project is in a consolidation phase, with a team of teachers, students and supporters that make up a solid base of work, they have managed to be invited for the second time to the Havana Biennial and also that the State assume the salaries of the teaching staff that make up the Workshop. It is a project that demonstrates in a real way the ability to inspire that training can have in places where access to culture is difficult”, believes Sánchez Cuerda, who began his collaboration with MAPRI 8 years ago.
The two artists agree that traveling the 180 kilometers that separate Havana from Pinar has been a great lesson for them. “The experience once again highlights the relevance of art as a meeting place, exchange and growth of society. Of paramount importance in countries like Cuba, but also essential in our society, where the gap between art and the public is increasing.” They anticipate that they are already thinking of new ideas to collaborate with the smallest contemporary art museum in the world and the Farmacia Workshop, which runs the islander Juan Carlos Rodríguez, who plans to hold his first exhibition in the Canary Islands soon.
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