Havana 500: A Woman in the Mirror of the City

Every day the painter, complete artist which is Ileana Mulet looks more like Havana, that dreamt city painted from deep eyes not at all blind, of love; those eyes searching for beauty, givers of beauty.

—What Havana have you painted?

—Maestro Harold Gramatge, prominent Cuban musician regrettably deceased, at one of my exhibitions, he wrote:

«Mulet led by the hand by angels and demons slowly finds dreamt images that she captures in wide spaces, where she mocks dimensions to put together, superimposing them, solid stones, walls, streets, stairways, towers, windows, arches, bell towers and, sometimes, human and animal shapes, opening spaces as if heaven’s infinite dimension was brought down to earth».

«That complex intricacy takes possession of my creative process and takes me to travel its passions and turn them into creation».

—The presence of the city is very clear in plastic arts, but you are a versatile artist. How much of the city is there in the poetry?

—Everything gets mingled as if it were a Creole mojito, and poems are written that never cease to mention the immensity of Colonial Havana.

I think our “wonder” city is viewed by us creators, as describes it the journalist and art critic, María del Mar López Cabrales:

«Havana is a city full of life that gives the sensation, at least to the traveler, that it works; it’s a place that can have blackouts, water cuts, collapsing of walls in buildings, destruction by hurricanes, but where people are in the streets, walk, go to stores, buys, sells, offers services to other pedestrians and, mainly, constantly communicates. Havana is a city that never sleeps. A place easy to take the pace, a space where there’s still an intense cultural life: Theater shows every weekend, the incomparable National Ballet with Alicia Alonso as leader in each presentation, concerts of the best Jazz music in different pubs like La Zorra y el Cuervo, the Jazz Café or El Gato Tuerto, bookstores, presentations of books and acts of new troubadours almost every day, shooting of new movies or film cycles dedicated to different directors or different genres, exhibitions of painting. Havana is a place full of life, where is difficult to get bored or remain dauntless because at every turn there’s something that catches the eye and makes you be alert».

—In your life, in your personality, as adoptive daughter what has Havana left in you?

—The city welcomed me when I was little; coming from afar; confused among its bustling inhabitants at the beginning it was not easy for me to walk. Then, slowly I have lifted a castle of hopes that my unusual and lyrical work, rewarded.

«Today I dream of mounting in a big wheel, one of those that helped free the slaves in La Demajagua; I open the eyes and reality returns cracks that inhabit in the complexity of artists; then shapes surface and wonderful real colors ».

Art of Memoirs and Homage (+ PHOTOS)

We approach the work of the artist from Matanzas Osmani Betancourt who has created an outdoors gallery by the riverside of San Juan River that endured the lash of hurricane Irma.

A few months ago, the young artist Osmani Betancourt Falcon (Versalles, Matanzas, 1973), best known as Lolo, came up with the idea of creating an outdoor gallery with three-dimensional pieces placed on the riverside of San Juan River, made by him and a group of local artists belonging to his Project San Juan. The sturdiness of the welcoming sculptural promenade endured, without a scratch the lashings of hurricane Irma, after it hit Matanzas.

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The admirable idea of one of the most remarkable Cuban sculptors, donned spirituality to a segment of Narváez Street, where Lolo has his workshop-gallery, established in an old and dusty building where a century ago lived the professor Alberto Tarascó Martínez (Catalonia, Spain 1891- Havana, 1952), creator of the first plastic arts and of painting schools registered in that city. The latter became the Province School for Plastic Arts named after him.

Back then Nárvaez Street was called Eleuterio Tello Lamar —it was later called Rio—. At the house marked with the number 27, after arriving to Cuba in year 1916, Tarascó established his school, of great importance in the development of plastic arts, at this school studied many of the painters from that territory with a work legitimated in the first half of last century.

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These features bestow historical relevance to the building, one of the first buildings of town and which Loló saved of staying as just a trash site, while he wanted to pay homage to the Catalan professor's legacy in that place located in the Golden Apple of Matanzas. Right next door, since March 3, 1941 became established the Province School of Art. Its students carries out practices in the space where the talented author shares with maestro Manuel Hernández —both have been awarded the province award for plastic arts — and young Dariel Lozano Pérez. They wish to rebuild the property and create spaces for exhibitions and conferences. At present is one of the most visited places in Matanzas by the national and international tourism.

Also known by its sculptures in brass and resins, the use of colors (oil paintings), canvases and other mixed techniques, Lolo’s work has also won him awards at international events like the Havana Biennial in which its penultimate edition presented his enigmatic work named La Comparsa, which monopolized the public's attention at La Cabaña Fortress; the same happened with his works presented at the International Event of Ceramic Art of Aveiro, Portugal; as well as in Exhibition of Cuban Art in Orleáns, France, and his exhibitions in four different galleries in Panama in 1997.

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In Lolo’s three-dimensional works the spectator sees a reflexive, eminently conceptual art, through which pleasure and thought are combined in a sort of exorcism from which pour forth many conclusions related with contemporary life. His plastic arts speeches establish dialogues that identify us, assess us. It’s because that reason that his work is found within the sculptural art of vanguard and not within the artistic craft, although as a “jam session” from his hands have been created several works awarded in important competitions, like the biennial of Ceramic Amelia Peláez and Art of Fire; the galleries Roberto Diago, and La Vasija, respectively.

Their creation is symbolic and enigmatic. Although La Comparsa marked an important sign within painting production of this teacher, generally his sculptures and installments remind us of the everyday life, what’s popular to show a style where bandanas, pans, bags and other articles present in our day-to-day life, become existentialist reference within the complex narrations woven with an impeccable and precise technique. Lolo shapes the clay, and puts it to work towards his aesthetic thinking, from which inconceivable characters and anecdotes are born establishing a mystic interconnection between the classic art of Renaissance and modernity.

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But Osmani—whose work we’d like to enjoy more often in the galleries of Havana—was not always known as Lolo, that nickname was given in his childhood, when he was in primary school in Jagüey Grande. That boy with artistic talent finally got graduated at Vocational School of Plastic Arts of Matanzas and then in the National School of Plastic Arts of Havana (1992), Sculptor and Designer. He quickly transcended with the singular name he is known today in Cuba and abroad. His work is stored at the National Museum of Ceramic; in the Workshop-House Pedro Pablo Oliva, and other several private and institutional collections of Cuba, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Panama, United States, Canada, Germany, Holland and France.

Amilkal Labañino Valdés / Cubasi Translation Staff

  • Published in Specials

Week on French Culture in Havana to Celebrate Diversity

Havana, Mar 10 (Prensa Latina) With a week to celebrate French culture, from March 18th to 26th, Cuba joins this international initiative to highlight this fruitful and varied culture, said sources here.

French Ambassador in Cuba Jean-Marie Bruno said that there is a large program that includes films, dance and music performances, as well as plastic arts exhibitions.

Various embassies from French-speaking countries settled in Havana joined the celebration with activities from their countries of origin.

Films will be screened at La Rampa movie theater from March 18th to 26th, while many exhibitions will be held at the Vitrina de Valonia and Casa Victor Hugo centers.

Along with the launch of books, screening of films and the organization of panels and lectures, the festival Havana World Music will be attended by a large amount of artists from Canada, Haiti, Algeria, Tunisia and France.

The Cuban Art Factory (FAC) will host night activities with French music and will also screen videos to promote the most recent sounds from that culture.

FAC will also host dance performances of choreographers as Christophe Haleb (March 24th) and Samir Elyamni (March 31st).

  • Published in Culture
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