Of biennials and festivals

The artists exhibited essentially during the regional biennials before doing it collectively. 

These have played a decisive role, although more for the confrontation than for the personal approach of the Caribbean artists. One of the oldest is engraving, held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the seventies.

Since the sixteenth century, world maps, insular maps and the graphic narrative of attacks by foreign powers or privateers were manifested through engraving. The town of San Juan de Puerto Rico was an object of interest for the Dutch Schenk and Havana for many engravers, among them the French Dominique Serres (1762), Miahle, Laplante or Garneray in the nineteenth century. The plans of La Española that improved Petrus Bertius (Descriptio Hispaniola, illuminated in 1604), or that of Santo Domingo de Baptista Boezio (1598), are equivalent in colors, later, and indicate "the North Sea" (sic), like that of Dr. Tomás López (1785). These shots have fueled the imaginary of peoples and artists for centuries.

Consequently, the engraving has been perpetuated in this insular region, through a production destined for the popular classes. He has gone through different stages: from an idealized aesthetic, to a strong expressionism; therefore, it is by no means surprising to rediscover this practice as part of the artistic manifestations in the biennials, and in particular in the Biennial of Latin American and Caribbean Engraving, later called San Juan Polygraphic Triennial (Latin America and the Caribbean) ). Without pretensions of exhaustiveness, we will evoke the XII edition, of 1998, for its wide Dominican representation, composed by José Castillo, Pascal Meccariello, Rhadamés
Mejía, Belkis Ramírez, Raúl Recio, Rosa Tavárez, Luz Severino and Julio Valdés; next to Annalee Davis, Jocelyn Gardner and Stanley Greaves (Barbados); Edgar León (Costa Rica); Belkis Ayón and Eduardo Roca (Cuba); Pascale Monnin (Haiti); Carlos Castillo and Yadira Díaz (Nicaragua); Marta Pérez García, Ada Rosa Rivera and Juan Sánchez
(Puerto Rico); Jorge Martínez (Venezuela).

On the other hand, conceptual kinships are established between the right and the reverse, by Belkis Ramírez, in reference to the photo of the suspect in the police station, and Marty red woman in metamorphosis, by Jocelyn Gardner; while there is a closeness in terms of the practice between Ramírez and Belkis Ayón. Heirs of the legacy of Lam, who advocated art as an act of decolonization, the two Belkis revolutionized the graphics of the eighties, making breaks in all orders-linguistic, but equally conceptual-while carrying out a reflection on women and the taboos that are linked to them. Thus, both have embarked on a subversion of support, bringing down the boundaries between genres, visual functions and generations. The Dominican, like the Cuban Abel Barroso, unleashes a rupture and a subversion of the own identity of the engraving and its roles, in particular the one of matrix / impression: instead of fixing the printing on paper to the wall, it is the matrix, the wood, which appears as an authentic work. His portraits of women carry, therefore, directly on them the scalpel and the wound.

Furthermore, a multicultural event developed after the creation of the Caribbean Community in 1973: Carifesta is not a biennial specialized in the visual arts, but a festival. This Caribbean Arts Festival was born from a political will to link 30 Caribbean and Latin American countries through the presentation of art, literature, folklore, dance, theater, as well as colloquia around specific themes.3 The It was developed in several countries: Carifesta I, in Guyana (1972); Carifesta II, in Jamaica (1976); Carifesta III, in Cuba (1979); Carifesta IV, in Barbados (1981); Carifesta V, in Trinidad and Tobago (1992); Carifesta VI, again in Trinidad and Tobago (1995); Carifesta VII, in Saint Kitts and Nevis (2000); Carifesta VIII, in Suriname (2003); Carifesta IX, in Trinidad and Tobago (2006); Carifesta X, in Guyana (2008); Carifesta XI, in Suriname (2013); Carifesta XII should take place in 2015 in Haiti. This event aims to reaffirm the strength of the arts in the construction of society and above all "to deepen awareness and knowledge among the peoples of the Caribbean region of the cultural aspirations of their neighbors, exposing them to the culture of one and the other. through creative activity ", as well as" favoring as much as possible popular participation in the culture and arts of the region. " All agreed to highlight the Havana Biennial, whose development has been relevant, despite the inconveniences it had to face, like all events in the region. After the death of Wifredo Lam in 1982, it was planned to create the Lam Center in homage to the Cuban artist. The influence of this artist was evident in the first Havana Biennial, where the conferences underlined the confluence of identity awareness, commitment and avant-garde language in Lam. This contest wanted to open up to the plastics of the Caribbean and Latin America, as well as to claim a third world vocation that, for various reasons, had to wait for the following calls.

That first edition of 1984 had as its task to bring together the artists of the region, an appreciable challenge in itself, since for several decades Cuba lived in a diplomatic isolation from the Western world and the countries of the region -except for Mexico-, after the island was expelled from the OAS. Therefore, bringing regional and international criticism closer together and reaching a broad public was its two fundamental objectives. Despite communication difficulties, a large number of plastics answered the call. This generated an overflow of shipments that had to be divided between two institutions: the Cuba Pavilion, in La Rampa, in charge of hosting the painting; and the Museum of Fine Arts, reserved for drawing. The first did not follow museographic criteria, which could have had perverse effects: If, on the one hand, it was not based on a discursive coherence, on the other it allowed the artists to mix. The second, more conventional, distributed the works by country, although presenting very unequal levels.

This first Biennial brought together the great masters of the XNUMXth century: Samuel Feijóo, René Portocarrero, Mariano Rodríguez, Raúl Martínez, Fayad Jamis, Raúl Corrales and Korda (Cuba); Silvano Lora (Dominican Republic); Rufino Tamayo (Mexico); Omar Rayo and Alejandro Obregón (Colombia); Alejandro Aróstegui (Nicaragua); Alirio Palacios (Venezuela); Antonio Martorell and Lorenzo Homar (Puerto Rico). On the other hand, it allowed to offer a privileged place to the creators, both the Dominican Soucy de Pellerano and Elsa Núñez, and the Puerto Rican Myrna Báez. The fabrics of these dialogues when probing the soul of women. Núñez, in a style sometimes expressionist, sometimes romantic; Báez, halfway between the romanticism of transparencies and realism, the two sharing poetry.

Among the youngest generations, essentially of the seventies and eighties, we mention the Dominicans Johnny Bonnelly, José García Cordero, Vicente Pimentel; next to the Colombians Álvaro Barrios, Olivia Miranda and Ángel Loockartt; Cubans Gustavo Acosta, Roberto Fabelo, Jose Bedia, Umberto Castro, Choco, Juan Francisco Elso Padilla, Ana Mendieta, Manuel Mendive, Pedro Oliva, Antonio Eligio Fernandez (Tonel) and Ruben Torres Llorca. Likewise, the Mexican García Ponce, the Venezuelan Carlos Zerpa, as well as Marc Latamie, from Martinique. This event was an outstanding occasion for the exhibition of an excellent meeting of trends, ages and diverse horizons. For the first time the participating artists could have an unusual vision, in fact, of the art that was practiced outside the great Western centers and the Venice Biennale.

In addition, the jury stressed that it had made "an assessment of Latin American artistic creation, considering it is pluralistic, multifaceted, emerging from its past, which is inscribed in the social real and contributes with its creative contributions to the visual arts in the international scope ".5 As Llilian Llanes underlined, this first version" meant the consecration of the most recent art ".6 Such criteria could only comfort the Dominican creators in their multiple identity, in their need to fix and - consequently - to accept the other as a double, at the same time as someone different.

The II Havana Biennial (1986) set up its initial project of inviting Third World countries with which the island had had relations since the 1966s. Indeed, at the 1978 Tricontinental Conference, Asia, Africa and Latin America had risen up against colonialism and imperialism, and their role within the Non-Aligned Movement had a great breadth at the summit in Algiers and later, in XNUMX, with the Declaration of Havana. The objective of the Biennial was to legitimize this visual production, unknown in the big centers, and make it known internationally. In addition, the aim was to favor their access to new artists, encourage dialogue and encourage the participation of a wide public.

This edition gives rise to a new meeting between Silvano Lora, Álvaro Barrios, Myrna Báez, Antonio Martorell, Angel Loockartt, Carlos Zerpa, García Ponce, José Bedia, Consuelo Castañeda, Umberto Castro, Juan Francisco Elso Padilla, Roberto Fabelo, Manuel Mendive, Flavio Garciandía, Tonel, Rubén Torres Llorca, among others. On this occasion, Alberto Bass, Polibio Díaz and Ramón Oviedo rub shoulders with Guillermo Trujillo (Panama); Pedro Arrieta (Costa Rica); David Boxer (Jamaica); Victor Anicet, Ernest Breleur and Henri Guédon (Martinique); Marta Pérez, Arnaldo Roche and Marcos Irizarry (Puerto Rico); Sandú Darié, José Manuel Fors, Cosme Proenza and Alfredo Sosabravo (Cuba).

Some observations about the conclave are imposed. On the one hand, the strong delegation of Latin America gave rise to the International Conference on Caribbean Art, which revolved around the themes: "Africa within the Caribbean arts"; "General situation of the Caribbean plastic, problems, perspectives and possibilities"; "Art and identity in Latin America"; "Caribbean reaffirmation and its aesthetic and artistic requirements"; "Historical-artistic process in the Caribbean"; "Continuity and renewal of vernacular traditions in the contemporary Caribbean environment".

In addition, the presence of artists and intellectuals from the other two continents allowed the plastic artists of the Caribbean to come into contact with new emerging forms linked to their roots, African in particular. Thus, Manuel Mendive, with his interdisciplinary work Life, had a lot of visibility at the event. In addition, Guillermo Trujillo echoed indigenous ancestral beliefs, thus proclaiming the recognition of the cultures of ethnic minorities, something that the event committee wanted to underline. On the other hand, the insular plastics demonstrated their social and ideological commitment, while rejecting any dose of socialist realism. Let us cite, for example, Juan Francisco Elso Padilla and his installation Por América. The Biennial was kind enough to invite Hervé Telemaque, Haitian recognized on the international scene, as a tribute to the entire Caribbean, despite his reluctance to consider his work as “Caribbean”. However, the work of Alberto Bass was connected with that of the Haitian artist, undoubtedly thanks to the pop codes used in his references to the societies of this part of America.

One flat. The institutions of the Dominican Republic did not respond to the meetings proposed by the museum directors, no doubt because the Gallery of Modern Art had not yet become a museum. Unlike Gloria Zea, from the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá (MamBO), and María Elena Herrero, from the Museum of Fine Arts in Caracas, which resulted in Venezuela having a strong representation of creators. We will have to wait for the V Biennial so that Porfirio Herrera, director of the Museum of Modern Art of Santo Domingo –opened in 1976 and named as a Museum in 1992– and responsible for the Caribbean Biennial, lends his support to artists from his island to participate at the Havana Biennial.

Although some meetings are repeated during the Bienal (1989), such as that of Olivia Miranda, Carlos Zerpa, José Bedia, José Manuel Fors, Flavio Garciandía, Manuel Mendive and Tonel, we can regret that this is not the case for the Dominican Republic. Only one of its artists draws attention: Thimo Pimentel, who has the opportunity to exhibit his work alongside Enrique Grau (Colombia); Patricia Belli and Raúl Quintanilla (Nicaragua); Francisco Cabral (Trinidad and Tobago); Roberto Lizano (Costa Rica); Sandra Ceballos, Roberto Diago, Glexis Novoa, Martha María Pérez, Ciro Quintana and Santiago Rodríguez Olazábal (Cuba). The help of Manuel Espinosa allowed a broader vision of art in Venezuela; Nicaragua's presence resulted in the discovery of Patricia Belli, while Gerardo Mosquera's efforts in Africa led to Arabic calligraphy and wire toys. To the extent that this event questioned "Tradition and contemporaneity in Third World art", it related traditions, rites, popular culture, and included expressions related to artisan practices associated with conceptual proposals.

The participation of Tony Capellán, Marcos Lora Read, Raúl Recio and Radhamés Mejía in the IV Biennial of 1991 does not go unnoticed, between Milton Becerra (Venezuela); Mary
Fernanda Cardoso (Colombia); Helenon, Louis Laouchez (Martinique); Belkis Ayón, Humberto Castro, Kcho and Ibrahim Miranda (Cuba). It was about discerning the consequences of colonization, just at the time when the celebration of the fifth centenary of the discovery of America was being prepared. Capellán made an installation on racism, adopting a particular point of view, that of black creativity, through silhouettes of dancers and ritual objects, while Marcos Lora Read exhibited the work that made him known and would be later requested for major exhibitions: Five cars for history. As for the work of Radhamés Mejía, due to its ritual and mysterious aspect, it was in dialogue with that of Belkis Ayón and that of Mendive.

The V Biennial (1994) proposed a broader theme: "Art, society and reflection". It was divided into sections, thus opening different perspectives to plastics in the region:
"Fragmented spaces"; “Art, power and marginality”, where Ras Akyem, Ras Ishi and Stanley Burnside (Barbados), Robert Cookhorne (Jamaica), Tonel (Cuba), Anaida Hernández and Víctor Vázquez (Puerto Rico) participated; "Art and the individual on the periphery of postmodernity", which exposed Carlos René Aguilera, Los Carpinteros and Abel Barroso (Cuba), Thierry Alet (Guadalupe), Albert Chong (Jamaica), Elba Damast (Venezuela), Annalee Davis (Barbados) ); For their part, the Dominicans Oscar Imbert, Martín López, Rhadamés Mejía and Fernando Varela entered "Environments and Circumstances", in the company of Alonso Cuevas, Mariano Hernández, Milton Becerra and Víctor Hugo Irazábal (Venezuela), María Fernanda Cardoso and José Alejandro Restrepo (Colombia), Carlos Garaicoa, Esterio Segura, Tonel, Osvaldo Yero, Pedro Álvarez and Eduardo Rubén García (Cuba), Ernest Breleur (Martinique), Alida Martínez (Aruba). Marcos Lora Read and Raúl Recio entered a particularly bearing axis, “The other shore”, which included, among others, Juan Sánchez (United States), Tania Bruguera, Alexis Leyva (Kcho), Sandra Ramos and Manuel Piña (Cuba), Antonio Martorell (Puerto Rico), Yubi Kirindongo (Curaçao), Elvis López (Aruba). It should be noted that Raúl Recio is at the origin of this group, after having suggested to Llilian Llanes the issue of Dominican emigration "and the different ways that his compatriots were using to get to the United States", as the Cuban curator, who chose to broaden the problem to the migratory phenomena of the Third World. This section, presented at the Castillo del Morro, captured everyone's attention, sublimated by its high level of humanism and the presence of new linguistic codes, something that received special emphasis because a few weeks later the wave of Cuban rafters took place. towards the United States.

The VI edition of 1997 once again values ​​the female artists of the Dominican Republic Belkis Ramírez and Inés Tolentino; from Aruba, Glenda Heyliger and Osaira Muyale; from Costa Rica, Priscila Monge; from Jamaica, Petrona Morrison; from Colombia, Delcy Morelos. The long search process carried out by the Cuban curators, who tried to show the art of places difficult to access or considered peripheral, is evidenced. "The individual and memory", chosen theme, gives grain to grind Third World intellectuals, since an axis that had been latent since 1984 was questioned: identities, their manipulation and their standardization by the dominant cultures in the world. globalization process.

Elvis López (Aruba) was also invited; David Boxer and Marc Latamie (Martinique); Pepon Osorio and Víctor Vázquez (Puerto Rico); Eduardo Bárcenas and Alex Apóstol (Venezuela); Carlos Estévez, José Manuel Fors, Garaicoa, Kcho, Manuel Mendive and René Peña (Cuba).

The Dominicans did not enjoy a special representation during the VII Biennial (2000), where Alida Martínez and Ciro Abad (Aruba) stand out; José Alejandro Restrepo (Colombia); Marisel Jiménez and Manuel Zumbado (Costa Rica); Abel Barroso, Carlos Estévez, Tonel and Los Carpinteros (Cuba); Barbara Prezeau (Haiti); Albert Chong (Jamaica); Alex Burke (Martinique); Patricia Belli (Nicaragua); Allora & Calzadilla (Puerto Rico); Christopher Cozier and Peter Minshall (Trinidad and Tobago).

It was necessary to wait for the VIII Biennial (2003) to verify the strong presence of the Dominicans Raquel Paiewonsky, Jorge Pineda and Darío Oleaga, along with Yasser Musa (Belize); Yvan and Yoan Capote, Liset Castillo and Alain Pino (Cuba); Ernest Breleur (Martinique); Humberto Vélez (Panama). Polibio Díaz (La isla del tesoro) and Limber Vilorio were also in the IX edition (2006), where Caja Lúdica (Guatemala) also participated; Roberto Diago and Reynerio Tamayo (Cuba); Abigaíl Hadeed (Trinidad and Tobago), Jonathan Harker (Panama); North Front Steet Project (Santiago Cal, Richard Holder and Yasser Musa) (Belize); Alejandro Ramírez (Costa Rica); Carlos Rojas (Venezuela).

Without pretending to be exhaustive or to review all the Biennials, we add that the X edition (2009) welcomes the Dominicans Fausto Ortiz, Elia Alba and Colectivo Shampoo (D'La
Mona Plaza); Steve Ouditt (Trinidad and Tobago); Pepon Osorio (Puerto Rico); Annalee Davis (Barbados); Alexander Arrechea, Abel Barroso, Yoan Capote, Glenda León, Douglas Pérez and Reynerio Tamayo (Cuba); Tirzo Martha (Curaçao); Regina Galindo (Guatemala); Maxence Denis and Jean Ulrich Désert (Haiti); Adán Valdecillo (Honduras);
Alex Burke (Martinique); Marcela Díaz (Mexico); Raúl Quintanilla (Nicaragua); Donna Conlon and Jonathan Harker (Panama).

Of course, the editions are maintained, and continue to bring together the artists that interest us, those of the Dominican Republic and the Greater Caribbean, showing a great variety of points of view and plastic resolutions on the problems that everyone shares, not only during those events , but also in their daily life. It is noteworthy that these events, centered around themes, allowed participating artists to confront their work. That is why we have chosen to mention a large number of names of Caribbean artists participating in the Havana Biennial, since the confrontation of their works reveals common approaches with the Dominicans.

As we have seen when drawing the general lines of participation in the Havana Biennials, the plastic artists of the Colombian and Mexican Caribbean were forgotten, except for Marcela Díaz, in 2009. That was not the case of the Caribbean Painting Biennials and Central America in the Dominican Republic, which invited Gilberto Guerrero Sánchez, to cite just one example, in 1994. It should be noted that this last Dominican event prolongs the VI Biennial of Havana and coincides with the exhibition in Spain of Exclusion, fragmentation and paradise , Insular Caribbean at the Extremadura and Ibero-American Museum of Contemporary Art (June-September), and then at the Casa de América in Madrid (September-November). This is the moment when the visual arts of the insular Caribbean - including, of course, Dominican artists - truly emerge on the international scene.

The Painting Biennial of the Caribbean and Central America in the Dominican Republic, born in 1992, contributed greatly to the projection of the insular arts and of some continental fringes of the region. In addition, it supported the Havana, as underlined Llilian Llanes: "The Caribbean Biennial, an event that was of great support to ours to bring together artists from all the islands in the area."

The biennials sparked other events: the African Caribbean Pacific Festival -ACP-, whose first edition was held at the Museum of Modern Art in Santo Domingo at 2006, which allowed the exchange of views between artists from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. . He himself revealed that the art of Africa, nourished by its ancestral roots, but far from all traditional folklore, managed to enroll in contemporary and technological practices.

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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