This spring The FSU Museum of Fine Arts hosts a major exhibition of works by modern Cuban artists selected by guest curator Segundo Fernandez, attorney, art collector, and doctoral candidate in art history at Florida State. Proceeding from works of historical artists to significant artists of today, the exhibition, Cuban Art in the 20th Century: Cultural Identity and the International Avant Garde, provides a unique cultural experience celebrating Cuban landscape, history, mythos and a rich and varied aesthetic that is as individual as each artist. Over one hundred works, the vast majority from private collections in Florida, have been organized and assembled through the generosity of Director Ramon Cernuda and his staff at Cernuda Arte in Coral Gables. The exhibition opened on February 12 and will remain open through March 27.
Fernandez worked with professors Juan A. Martínez (of Florida International University) and Paul Niell (of FSU), MoFA Director Allys Palladino-Craig, and collectors across Florida to bring together a project that is close to his heart as a native of Cuba with a lifelong passion for art and the study of art history. The exhibition, featured in ArtDaily.org, is believed to be the largest art historical survey of Cuban art shown in the United States since the Museum of Modern Art in New York City showcased the work of about a dozen Cuban painters in 1944. The opening attendance on Friday, February 12 exceeded previous records at the Museum of Fine Arts, with over 1,000 visitors for the evening event.
In association with the exhibition, a Colloquium on International Art Trade investigated the global contexts of Cuban art through the intersections of law, cultural patrimony, the international art trade and collecting, with a focus on U.S.–Cuban relations in the 20th century. Panelists included art historians Michael Carrasco and Preston McLane, Fernando Tesón from the FSU College of Law, and Cuban art expert Ramón Cernuda. Florida State University President John Thrasher also hosted a public reception for the exhibition, attracting esteemed guests such as FSU Board of Trustees members Mark Hillis and Leslie Pantin, Wakulla County Commissioner Dr. Howard Kessler, and Dr. Sally McRorie, FSU Provost and Executive VP for Academic Affairs.
On February 22, Professor Emeritus Juan A. Martínez delivered a public lecture on the emergence of modernism in Cuban art from the 1930s through 1950. Martínez earned his doctorate in art history from Florida State University in 1992 and taught in the Department of Art and Art History at Florida International University, focusing on modern art in Europe and Cuba. He is the author of Cuban Art & National Identity: The Vanguardia Painters 1927-1950, Carlos Enriquez: The Painter of Cuban Ballads, and Maria Brito. He is currently working on a monograph of one of the pioneers of Cuban modern painting, Fidelio Ponce de Leon. Martínez also contributed an essay to the catalogue of the Cuban Art in the Twentieth Century exhibition.
Professor Martínez spoke before a standing-room only audience in FAB 249, addressing the ways in which Cuban painters, initially emulating the work of their avant-garde European contemporaries, developed a visual language of their own and an iconography specific to Cuba. A video compilation of the lecture and slideshow is provided below: