The relationship with Europe and with African cultures

The relationship with Europe deserves to be reiterated, and even reinterpreted as far as the visual arts of the Caribbean are concerned. 

 

It has been perennized throughout the colonial era, following the canons of the Spanish metropolis, and has allowed the island plastics interesting regional approaches. Thus, Carlos Ramírez voluntarily exiles himself in Santiago de Cuba, Adriana Bellini (Billini) studies in Cuba and Ramón Frade, Puerto Rican, receives his training from Adolfo Laglande in Santo Domingo.

In the first third of the twentieth century, those creators, eager for information, made periods of permanence in Paris, which at the time was an artistic pole of international attraction.

Their confrontation with the different tendencies then in force -post impressionism, fovism, cubism, post-cubism, constructivism, surrealism, futurism- leads them to appropriate some of these formal codes. These serve as support to express a new feeling for their region. Dominican artists, upon their return from Paris, would integrate post-cubism, become familiar with Picasso's work and with metaphysical art (Colson), while those from Spain would lean more towards Surrealism (Eugenio Granell) . Although evidently the stays of both in Mexico and the United States would contribute to that they opened new perspectives. These variations explain the path followed since then by the Dominican visual arts.

Moreover, other sensitivities have guided artists. In the Dominican Republic, work on heritage memory from Africa has been slower than in Cuba –where Fernando Ortiz played a fundamental role in its recovery and analysis–, Puerto Rico, and even Colombia. The popular island characters and religious rites, little by little, gave birth to an awareness of this specificity that the artists transferred to the field of narration: The birth of the gagá (Paul Giudicelli, 1960), The sacrifice of the goat (Eligio Pichardo, 1958), the recognition of syncretism as indicated by the Black Virgin (Marta Pérez, 1987), or Santa Marta la Dominadora1 (Jorge Severino, 1977), that is, an assimilation of identity. In Cuba, Ortiz played a leading role and, consequently, it was not surprising that the Faculty of Arts and Letters offered courses on African cultures.

Taken from the Book Braiding a History in Progress, Contemporary Dominican Art in the Context of the Caribbean

Michele Dalmace, Critic and art researcher.
Professor at the Michel de Montaigne University, Bordeaux

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