(out)doors of cuba
The streets of Cuba are filled with art the same way they are booming with music. Across cities, towns and villages, the walls are vibrant with artistic expression; large and small, multi-colored and duotone, old and new, modern and traditional, you’ll get a taste of everything.
Naturally, the country’s politically charged history (and present) fuels lots of political art referencing the revolution, communism, freedom and Che Guevara – but, surprisingly, barely any of Castro. It’s interesting to try to figure out whether (or rather how much) the murals were commissioned by the government, or whether they were self-initiated by artists.
The country’s (and/or government’s) pride of its history and its heroes is further reinforced in monuments across the country, where Cuba’s revolutionaries are remembered using iconic portraits. Perhaps the most famous example being in the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana, where large-as-a-building portraits of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos’ overlook and illuminate the square where thousands once stood to overthrow their government. The linear quality of these memorials creates a minimal, memorable, iconic and modern aesthetic unlike any other memorial I’d seen before. The same approach can be seen atop a building along the Prado in Havana, only meters away from the Museo de la Revolucion.
But of course, all of Cuban art isn’t always about its past or present leaders. Many of the murals in fact were very conceptual, veering on the abstract, and using color as a primary medium.
Hand-painted walls were also used for signage and advertisements as well, such as for the Autobiennal (an art event, I believe) and the national beer (as seen on the wall of a bar).
Perhaps my favorite use of environmental graphics in Cuba was in the parking lot of the Museo de la Revolucion, where the spots were cleverly and amusingly painted with various technical drawings of cars – not omitting the beetle!
There is also a lot of unplanned beauty on the walls of Cuba, as seen in the textures and colors of old walls pealing and chipping to reveal old coats of paint.
And of course, the beauty in the streets of Cuba isn’t just confined to street art: The architecture’s historic quality is unique to the island, and complemented further by small architectural details found scattered across buildings, neighborhoods, towns and cities. From bright and/or detailed mailboxes, to elaborate plaques, to patterned lamp posts, to ornamental benches to bright walls, it’s just as easy to take in the beauty of entire buildings as it is to be driven in by the tiniest of details.