Galleries of Contemporary Art
Cuba and Other Considerations: The Art of Carlos Manuel Cárdenes & Esteban Blanco

Cuba and Other Considerations: The Art of Carlos Manuel Cárdenes & Esteban Blanco

February 7–March 22, 2014

GOCA Downtown


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Esteban Blanco's metal works inspired by Italo Calvino's work of fiction The Invisible Cities address the human tendency to idealize our home after we have long departed. A second sculptural series - Violent Toys - includes mixed-media sculptures at once playful and deadly serious with cultural commentary. Both series of works demonstrate an expert level of craft while engaging us in the artist's powerful voice and vision.

Carlos Manuel Cárdenes has documented fellow Cuban expatriate artists with sensitivity and intelligence through his FACES portait series (ongoing from 2008 through the present). Cárdenes has graciously donated many of these works to the University of Colorado Colorado Springs where they are currently on display in the UCCS Kraemer Family Library main floor space. Following the exhibit of 61 portraits at GOCA, the works exhibited will be mounted in another prominent location on the campus as a permanent addition to the UCCS art collection.

GOCA thanks the CU President's Fund for the Humanities and the UCCS Chancellor's Office for making possible the exhibit, related artist residencies, and a catalog publication. We are grateful for the work of exhibit collaborator Dr. Andrea O'Reilly Herrera who has contributed an illuminating essay for the catalog publication. Finally, we thank all of our individual supporters in the community who have made our 2013-2014 season a reality through their generous donations.


Esteban Blanco | Artist Biography

There's an old observation (probably Voltaire), which holds that different societies manifest their values in their art -- thus religious societies make icons, militaristic societies make trophies and commerce-oriented societies produce articles of trade. That is why artists often say: "I'm just reflecting what is all around me". Indeed.

American society is filled with contradictions. Americans profess separation of church and state, while their politicians loudly proclaim their dependence on faith; indeed the likelihood of an atheist candidate running for office and winning is practically zero. America has arguably, the most developed scientific community in the world, but many obsess about Atlantis, flying saucers and crop circles. And while Americans cherish the idea of being a peace-loving nation, the country's defense budget totals more than the combined military expenditures of all other nations -- and it makes, sells and consumes most of the advanced weaponry in the world.

I'm interested in the esthetic of the toy, because toys are a universal normative strategy; the keys which children in every culture use to de-mystify the adult world they will shortly enter. We've all played cops and robbers, house, fireman - yes, even doctors and nurses. Then, at some point in adolescence, toys get put aside and life takes its course. And yet, even to the extent that we grow-up and all adult mysteries are explained, we retain a connection to the toy and playing which is sometimes merely semantic, but sometimes quite compelling. Some successful businessmen are wont to refer to the trappings of their lifestyle (sports cars, vacation homes, etc.) as their toys. In some remarkable cases even lovers and mistresses are referred to as playmates or boy toys.

"Violent Toys" examines the act of role-playing as both escapism and a way to order the world according to the boundaries of our childhood experience. As children, we may imagine ourselves powerful, wealthy or desirable beyond our reality within the comfort zone-which our toys and imaginary world provide. This work examines the proposition that, to the extent to which our childhood desires and goals are ever truly settled in adulthood, we continue the fantasy in the form of daydreams, or by object-worship.

My third series of works is a set of bronzes developed around the book "The Invisible Cities" by the writer Italo Calvino. These sculptures explore the idea that all places and societies are in a constant state of change and are being transformed even as our memories preserve them. This assumption leads me to consider the collective memory of a city, at times specific, at times imaginary; its present reality, and its likely or idealized future (which will eventually overtake it). I work for now, on capital cities only and avoid over-preparation and research of my subjects in order to inform my creations with my most vivid memories -- as well as the glaring omissions to which memory condemns all of us. My interest is not in the objective representation of reality, historians, geographers and others can and do concern themselves with that. I'm primarily interested in subjective perspective - as in the way a parent interprets a dreadful reality to a child in order to palliate emotional suffering. So it is, in my experience, with the reminiscences of an exile, the wish-full thinking of the terminally ill, or the fervent prayers of the devout. I'm interested in the process by which perfectly reasonable people divorce themselves from reality, in order to live an imaginary state better suited to their own subjectivity. As in the book -- which modeled my project, Kublai Kahn lives in all of us to the extent that we accept illusions willingly for our comfort. We may also recognize Marco Polo, when we tell our version of the truth.

A hundred years from now, people will regard our art with the benefit of hindsight, and will judge us as a society. What that judgment will be time will tell. My work is my best guess.

Esteban Blanco is represented by William Havu Gallery in Denver, Colorado. Works in this exhibit are available for purchase - please inquire with gallery staff for more information.

Esteban Blanco | Biography

Born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba; exiled to the U.S. in 1961 and after living in New York and Mexico City, currently resides in Miami, Florida. Studied art at the Brooklyn Museum School and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 1979 had his first one-man show at the Razor gallery in Soho in New York, and his hyperrealist paintings from the period are in the collection of the E.F Hutton Co. and Pan American Airways among others. He has also exhibited his work in Mexico City, Steamboat Springs, Denver, Colorado, and Miami, Florida. His work is in the permanent collection of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

William Havu Gallery - September 2013
"Western, Not Western"
Arte Duro Gallery, Miami - April 2013
"Traces of Memory and Other Myths"
Cremata Gallery - February 2013
McNichols Building Gallery, Denver CO. - January 2013
William Havu Gallery - November 2012
"Toy Stories TWO"
Canyon Gallery at Boulder - July - August 2012
Ann Street Gallery - Hudson River Valley - May -June 2012
"Feminism in Art" Text and Context
Arteamerica Art Fair, Miami. Cremata Gallery - March 2012
Accent Alternative Art Space, Miami - February 2012
Cremata Art Gallery, Miami - January 2012
Red Dot Art Fair-Basel, Miami. George Billis Gallery LA - December 2011
Wynwood Art Fair, Miami. Cremata Gallery - October 2011
William Havu Gallery, Denver - June 2011
Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, Pueblo, CO - May-October 2011
San Francisco Fine Arts Fair. William Havu Gallery - May 2011
Red Contemporary Gallery, Steamboat Springs CO - March 2011
Arteamerica Art Fair, Miami. Cremata Gallery - March 2011
Palm Beach Art Fair. Cremata Gallery - January 2011
Red Dot Art Fair-Basel, Miami. George Billis LA Gallery - Dec 2010
Accent Alternative Art Space, Miami - November 2010
Red Contemporary, Steamboat Springs CO - December 2010
Chico Zapote Art Gallery, Mexico City - March 2010
Red Contemporary Gallery, Steamboat Springs CO - Dec 2009
QbaVa Gallery, New Jersey - May 2009
Chico Zapote Art Gallery, Mexico City - Dec 2008
The Art Center of Northern New Jersey - April 2008
Contemporanea Gallery, Miami FL - March 2007
Zones Art Fair-Basel Miami - December 2007
Contemporanea Gallery, Miami FL - February 2006
Art Miami Fair. Basel Miami - Blue Door Fine Arts - January 2005
Chico Zapote Gallery, Mexico City - March 1986
Razor Gallery, Soho/NY - Dec 1979
Carlos Manuel Cárdenes | FACES Project Statement

This project is an ecumenical, non-confrontational photographic documentation of the Cuban artist community that formed in South Florida since the early sixties, and which continues to arrive seeking artistic freedom of expression. It is composed of 100 portraits of Cuban artists whose work is helping to define Miami's image as a center for contemporary art in the United States and the international scene.

The creative path to this effort was rather intuitive in the beginning. I began studying the work of these individuals - the mere volume and incredible quality, not to mention their passion to create. As I continued in this art appreciation journey, I developed a deep self-awareness that, from a rather homogenous group, in one location, such incredibly diverse talent was emerging. Thus, I felt a compulsion to document, in my own photographic style, (as yet another Cuban artist) their work, along with their faces - capturing their struggles, their stories, and their incredible passion for art. That immediately became my inspiration, which became my mission:

Record these artists' footprints and their contribution to transforming Miami into the influential art center it is becoming.

Generally, the documentation of artists takes the form of straightforward portraits - which then become a parenthesis to the art. My approach was to conflate the work and the artist into a single indivisible image; to place creator and creation in the same canvas and, so to speak, put the flesh on the bones of creation. To see the art and the artist as one - that was my vision.

To that end, I spent close to two years planning and scheduling sittings with every artist I could reach. A word-of-mouth daisy chain developed, the result of which is over 100 artist portraits -- photographed in their studio, in their own environment.

This is a record of their presence that, through their contribution to the local cultural mix, is influencing our image and our perception far beyond our shores. Art Basel, the world's premiere art event selected Miami over every other city in the USA! - and a casual stroll in Miami's Wynwood Art District to count the number of Cuban artists displaying their work, is enough to get a fix on the impact that this group is having.

We are privileged to be surrounded by their creativity and their dedication to the arts.
-Carlos Manuel Cárdenes

Carlos Manuel Cárdenes | Biography

Carlos Manuel Cárdenes was born in Havana, Cuba and has lived in Miami, Florida since 1961. Cárdenes has been engaged in art photography alongside his 35-year commercial photography career. Early exposure to the film and television industry formed the underpinnings of Carlos Manuel's personal style; at once direct and immediate and informed by a sense of the dramatic in lighting and choice of subject. "I credit the influence of my uncle, a TV and cinema director, with priming my curiosity for the beauty in the novel and grand, as well as in the commonplace and even the vulgar... taking pictures may be an art, but seeing is everything."

He provides a compelling case for capturing the essence of the subjects he photographs, always patiently waiting for that decisive moment when the core of his theme drifts up into view.

Carlos Manuel graduated from the Miami Photography College and also holds and an art degree from Miami-Dade College. He attended the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and the Brooks Institute at Santa Barbara, California. He is a member of ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers.)

Recent exhibits:
Cuba Transnational, Sangre de Cristo, CO
Freedom Tower, Miami, FL
Rodez Gallery, Coconut Grove, FL
The Americas Collection, Coral Gables, FL
Colby Gallery, Chicago, IL
ARTSoBay at the Deering Estate, Miami, FL
Borders Art Gallery, Miami, FL
Books and Books, Coral Gables, FL
Coral Gables Public Library, Coral Gables, FL
Zulema Rodríguez Galerías, Mexico City and Acapulco, Mexico
Razor, New York, NY

Generously sponsored by the UCCS Chancellor's Office & the CU President's Fund for the Humanities