Monthly Archives: November 2013

Cuba-ist! Images of Contemporary Cuba

Che (Colour), Cienfuegos, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Che, Cuba, 2012)
Che (Colour), Cienfuegos, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Che, Cuba, 2012)
Classic Car (SDA594), Trinidad, Cuba 2012 (from the Series Classic Cars, Cuba, 2012
Sign (Gate), Santa Clara, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Horse & Cart, Cuba, 2012)
Sign (Gate), Santa Clara, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Horse & Cart, Cuba, 2012)
Viva Fidel (Tripod), Baracoa, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Signs, Cuba, 2012)
Viva Fidel (Tripod), Baracoa, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Signs, Cuba, 2012)

Cuba-ist! Image of Contemporary Cuba by John Cowpertwait takes its title from a play on the name given to the works and practitioners of Cubism, an art movement that could be characterised as bringing together contrasting views of a subject in one image, creating fragmentation and abstraction. A supplementary inspiration for the title is the image of the word “IS” founds on the side of a dilapidated train engine in the wrecking yard that lies incongruously adjacent to the Capitolio Nacional, the dome of which dominates the Havana skyline (Train Yard (IS), near the Capitolio Nacional, Havana, Cuba 2012 (from the Series Accidental Abstracts, Cuba, 2012)).

For the Cuba-ist! exhibition, twenty-seven individual images have been selected from ongoing series and presented in eight clusters, which can be re-configured, added to or subtracted from to offer the potential of shifting perspectives on Cuba.

John Cowpertwait travelled around Cuba for two months at the beginning of 2012. His work observes contemporary Cuban society from the position of an outsider, paying particular attention to the use of hand-crafted signage across all facets of society. Given the general absence of advertising in Cuba, this signage is the main means of visual communication and is utilised primarily to promote state-sponsored messages.

This is particularly evident in the images of the ubiquitous and benign Big Brother Christ-like presence of Che Guevara who looms both large and small, seemingly around every corner. These representations of Che are largely based on the famous photo Guerrillero Heroico, 1960, by Cuban photographer Alberto Korda (1928-2001), which, as a reworking by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick produced in the late 1960s, could be found on countless posters and t-shirts across the world.

As well as the official steel outline images of Che that adorn state buildings (as shown in the series Trinity, Cuba, 2012), his face is often individually produced in situ on walls and the sides of buildings by largely anonymous local artisan painters who add their own unique touches, resulting in a plethora of similar but subtly different portraits (shown in the series Che, Cuba, 2012). Cowpertwait re-captures these images photographically, rendering them as digital and print reproductions, describing his works as “photos of paintings of a photograph – a small contribution to the extensive and ever-expanding library of images stemming from what is, arguably, the world’s most famous photograph.”

Cowpertwait is also attracted by the dilapidated condition of buildings and vehicles, repaired and reconditioned using an enforced make-do-and-mend approach, and how this throws up intriguing juxtapositions of materials, colours and shapes, resulting in a compelling tapestry of “accidental abstracts”.

Cuba-ist! was curated and installed by Cinzia Castellano & John Cowpertwait for Psi Art Projects.

John Cowpertwait

With a successful career in marketing and design under his belt, John Cowpertwait reinforced a lifelong commitment to the arts by supplementing his degree in English Language & Literature with an MA in Art Criticism. After a spell teaching, he progressed from talking and writing about art to producing it, combing his love of travel with the creative pursuits of photography, drawing and writing. His work reflects a continuing engagement with both the functions and materiality of display, signage, advertising and propaganda, and investigates the shifting interplay between images that produces new meanings, significances and ambiguities.

More work here

and at CoolLeopard.tumblr.com

PsiArtProjectsLogo (Small)

Psi Art Projects functions as a collective to facilitate the realisation of arts-related projects, working with artists to bring their work to a wider audience through an online presence, exhibitions, publishing and other means.

CoolLeopard.tumblr.com

List of Works

Sign, Cienfuegos, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Horse & Cart, Cuba, 2012)

Piquera, Cienfuegos, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Horse & Cart, Cuba, 2012)

Polar, Gibara, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Horse & Cart, Cuba, 2012)

Sign (Gate), Santa Clara, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Horse & Cart, Cuba, 2012)

Che (FUSA), Cienfuegos, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Che, Cuba, 2012), “Your example endures”

Che (Colour), Cienfuegos, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Che, Cuba, 2012)

Che (Gigante), Baracoa, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Che, Cuba, 2012), “A moral giant who grows more every day”

Che (Con Todo), Camaguey, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Che, Cuba, 2012), “Until victory always”

Che (T6), Santa Clara, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Che, Cuba, 2012), “Until victory always”

Che (Amor), Havana, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Che, Cuba, 2012), “Sane love, is not love”

Viva Fidel (Pole), Havana, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Signs, Cuba, 2012)

Viva Fidel (Rock), Baracoa, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Signs, Cuba, 2012)

Viva Fidel (Tripod), Baracoa, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Signs, Cuba, 2012)

Viva Fidel (Kerb), Cienfuegos, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Signs, Cuba, 2012)

Classic Car (FDD787), Cienfuegos, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Classic Cars, Cuba, 2012)

Classic Car (Mural), Holguin, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Classic Cars, Cuba, 2012)

Classic Car (FL822), Havana, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Classic Cars, Cuba, 2012)

Classic Car (HHR003), Havana, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Classic Cars, Cuba, 2012)

Che (Correos), Camaguey, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Che, Cuba, 2012), “Che, Commander, Friend…”

Che (Bikes), Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Che, Cuba, 2012)

Train Yard (IS), near the Capitolio Nacional, Havana, Cuba 2012 (from the Series Accidental Abstracts, Cuba, 2012)

Train Yard (Mana), near the Capitolio Nacional, Havana, Cuba 2012 (from the Series Accidental Abstracts, Cuba, 2012)

Camaguey, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Accidental Abstracts, Cuba, 2012)

Trinidad, Cuba, 2012 (from the Series Accidental Abstracts, Cuba, 2012)

Flag, Havana, Cuba 2012 (from the Series Trinity, Cuba, 2012)

Night, Havana, Cuba 2012 (from the Series Trinity, Cuba, 2012)

Day, Havana, Cuba 2012 (from the Series Trinity, Cuba, 2012)

All works are available for purchase.

Train Yard (IS), near the Capitolio Nacional, Havana, Cuba 2012 (from the Series Accidental Abstracts, Cuba, 2012)
Train Yard (IS), near the Capitolio Nacional, Havana, Cuba 2012 (from the Series Accidental Abstracts, Cuba, 2012)