Víctor Gómez (Havana, 1941) is a vital name within the catalog of Cuban contemporary art. Few realize it. Even he doesn’t consider it himself.
Affiliated to the Engraving Workshop of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), founder and coordinator of the group “Nueve versiones del paisaje” (1976), member of the UNEAC, and of the Council of Advisers of the Ministry of Culture, when he left Havana to settle in Florida, in 1980, he had already participated in greater than 80 collective exhibits, each inside and outdoors the country. The ominous gray quinquennium had began being surpassed.
“My arrival in Miami was chaotic. Settling in a city you don’t know all the time causes uncertainty. I used to be afraid that this displacement, which will not be only geographical if it involves Cubans, could alter the course of my life as an artist. I got here from the Havana of the Seventies, where I had a continuing artistic activity; I left behind my skilled relationships, my friends, my vital and artistic references. That world collapsed when it collided with a distinct reality, with a distinct culture and with a distinct socio-political environment. On the time I used to be 39, a not very advisable age to attempt to reinvent one’s life.”
Could you be more specific…
I felt like a fish out of water. All the pieces was new and confusing. I needed to develop into a part of the environment quickly. I worked as a street vendor. It was for a short while. And that was once I met a Cuban-Venezuelan family that bought the primary works on paper, which, within the midst of the chaos, I had already done.
That providential family was my first financial support here. They bought my works from 1980 to 1983. For any emigrant, the primary three years are very hard, and more so for a visible artist who intends to not abandon his profession, and that it, along with aesthetic satisfaction, feed him. The tunnel that’s mentioned a lot. This generous support gave me the possibility to quiet down, meet new collectors and galleries.
Actually, despite such a drastic change, I can consider myself a lucky man. The abhorrent street vendor job (abhorrent to me, I make clear; it’s as worthy as another) lasted only three months. From then on, until today once I’m reviewing this with you, I even have lived from my art work. I resumed my path and my vocation with new vigor. Although I felt―why not say it?―a certain nostalgia for Cuba’s artistic world, which I had enjoyed a lot.
How was Miami’s cultural life then?
Greater than modest. I might say poor. There was no huge colony of artists who work here today, coming not only from Cuba, but from countless Latin American and European countries, in addition to Americans, who today can enjoy a city that has grown, matured and has an enormous amount of exhibition spaces, cultural centers and museums. Galleries with a certain popularity could possibly be counted on the fingers of 1 hand: the Cuban Meeting Point and Forma; and the American ones: Barbara Gillman and Virginia Miller; the latter remains to be working. Miami has undergone a drastic change within the last 30 years. Its physiognomy has varied, it has develop into a metropolis with world-class art fairs, akin to Art Basel.
How does your work evolve until you reach the monotypes?
From 1980 to 1986 I only painted. I wasn’t doing that bad. Evidently being “new on the town” generated some curiosity, and I achieved an appropriate level of sale by my standards.
In 1986, at a gathering with friends, I met Tomás Rodríguez, an old schoolmate. He had achieved certain economic success. He asked me how he could help me; I told him that my plans included acquiring an etching press, but that I still couldn’t take into consideration that. He told me to stop by his office the following day to select up the check. I used to be paying him the loan for nearly three years.
This fortuitous event modified my artistic life definitely. I began working on my incipient monotypes on that press.
Víctor Gómez (note down those that doubt) is since then the one Cuban artist who has focused his work exclusively on that graphic modality, which in actual fact gives him a spot worthy of consideration amongst us. But this could be nothing greater than an anecdote if his monotypes didn’t have the extent of artistic excellence they show, if his mark weren’t unmistakable inside the field of Cuban abstraction, and if (that is for many who overvalue the contests) he wouldn’t have been recognized and awarded in multiple international events in these 30 years.
Currently, our artist receives invitations to take part in top-level biennial and triennial exhibitions and competitions since his work gives them prestige. This graduate of the San Alejandro Academy of High quality Arts, Havana (1963-67), has given workshops on the usage of the technique in China, Miami and El Salvador. And he’s a member of a substantial variety of guild associations and institutions, akin to the Florida Printmakers Society, International Graphic Art Foundation, International Print Triennial Society, Cracow; the Boston Printmakers, the Florida Printmakers Society, the Monotype Guild of New England…. And he all the time participates foremost as a Cuban artist, without further adjectives.
This success spiritually overwhelms me, nevertheless it doesn’t fill my pockets. It’s all the time harder to sell works on paper than on canvas. Natural oxidation, the shortage of a graphic culture, I suppose, imposes these prejudices. It must also be noted that gallery owners and dealers discourage collectors who’re all in favour of graphics, because canvases normally reach the next price out there.
That’s why it occurred to me to publish other renowned Cuban artists, akin to Cundo Bermúdez, Mario Carreño, Agustín Fernández and José María Mijares. With their works, I made 4 Cuban Masters, a lynographic portfolio. This project had a terrific market success among the many Cuban community in Miami, so I discovered myself in a somewhat higher economic situation.
On a visit to Puerto Rico, to sign Cundo’s original prints, I met Julio Santiago, a serigrapher from Bayamón, a wonderful engraver, with extraordinary technical skill; I offered him a spot in my workshop, and he spent two years working with me, wherein time he made the primary 4 serigraph editions of Mijares, Cundo, Agustín Fernández and Gay García. During this era, working alongside Santiago, learning with him, I became a serigrapher, and when he returned to Puerto Rico I continued to personally edit greater than 39 contemporary Cuban artists.
I also founded, in 1986, and have directed until today, the primary Cuban engraving workshop outside the Island, which I named Miami Press Workshop. Personally, the economic results of the workshop is a terrific achievement; it provides me with 60% of my economy and the opposite 40% comes from personal work. I also created and directed the Cuban Collection High quality Art Gallery, positioned in Coral Gables, which operated from 1995 to 2000.
In nowhere on the planet is the lifetime of the typical artist easy, economically speaking or by way of exhibitions and promotional possibilities. I even have not gotten wealthy, but I even have a listing of graphics that has allowed me to live with decorum, and keep my workshop open repeatedly for 40 years.
I even have not lacked materials to do my work, I even have also been able to provide myself certain personal satisfactions, to travel the world through my art.
Why monotype because the fundamental channel on your graphic concerns?
There are things that make one proud. For instance, any Cuban artist has made a monotype during his/her student or skilled stage, a genre that has not had followers within the country, reasonably detractors among the many tribe of engravers. I even have earned the status of being the one Cuban artist of all time who has embraced monotype as his fundamental technique of expression due to the years that I even have worked steadily on this method.
My preference for monotype was not deliberate, I used to be prejudiced; many engravers within the UNEAC workshop talked about this method pejoratively. Monotyping was reasonably a present of the circumstances; that’s to say, I had the chance of getting press, and that attracted me to the graphic, where I dabbled, without great pretensions, in etching, colography and, later, in serigraphy, to which I dedicated a number of years of labor.
As I explained to you previously, my economy doesn’t depend absolutely on what my work contributes to me, since with my publications I even have covered economic segment and this has allowed me, since I had my first encounter with this method, to devote myself to it with the true delight of making, without considering that I even have to sell.
The market incessantly diverts artists towards the demands imposed on them; it even urges artists to travel paths that distance them from their very own concepts, and even perverts their love for what they do. For me, the monotype has been one of the best passport to travel, compete and receive skilled satisfaction of every kind, in addition to being a discipline, from my standpoint, that gives expressive possibilities of maximum freedom; the artist can speak in two languages at the identical time, that of painting and that of graphics. On this last one resides the facility and magic.
What did the contact with personalities as remarkable because the ones you included in your graphic editions leave you?
I even have all the time thought that the trail of any artist may be very long and turbulent. In sports terms, a marathon race, but with countless obstacles. It is filled with many misunderstandings, envies, natural hurdles and fabricated by the competition. We artists are insecure and really competitive beings.
I’ve really felt that every recognition is another stone in a terrific constructing, and that they arrive in the mean time that they had to reach, if the necessities of this occupation which, at the identical time, is a passion, have been met: information, development of the technique, disagreement with what has been achieved, perseverance within the work and adequate promotion.
Cuban farmers say that knowing the best way to cluck is as vital as laying the egg.
Exactly. You couldn’t say it higher.
My work within the publication of other artists took place between 1991 and 2010. It allowed me to interact and do business with characters akin to Cundo Bermúdez, Mario Carreño, Agustín Fernández, Guido Llinás, José Mijares, Enrique Gay García, Hugo Consuegra and Rafael Soriano, to say a few of the maestros; in addition to countless contemporary artists that point has not yet put of their rightful place. I learned something from everyone. I also became friends with a few of them.
But when I had to focus on a surprising and relevant fact in my experience as a serigrapher and editor, this is said to the choice to publish Rojo y Negro in 1993 and, in 1995, Verde y Negro. In those years Carmen Herrera was considered one of many artists with talent, work and profession that will have deserved, no less than, the eye of critics. But perhaps her minority status, as a Cuban and a lady, decided that her fate was not like that of many other minimalist men and Americans.
Let’s mention Rothko, an icon, just as one example. His long life was spent this fashion, without reaching the deserved recognition, until the new millennium began and just when the new boom of geometric painting had begun, the interest for his work by gallery owners, scholars and collectors was unleashed. Let’s say: acclaimed. The Tate Gallery acquired considered one of Carmen’s pieces, a proven fact that gives her the transcendental condition of being the primary Latin woman who joined the vital collection. Note down there: a Cuban woman. And so began her late profession to fame. Carmen Herrera is undoubtedly our most famous artist, internationally, of all time.
The 2 pieces of Herrera mentioned were in a drawer in my workshop for greater than fifteen years. They didn’t sell, no one gave the impression to be all in favour of her work. When Carmen was catapulted to deserved fame, it became the best project in my collection, and from $50.00 (the worth she had on my page for a few years), Rojo y negro is currently selling for greater than $5,000.00 in world marketing and art auctions. Until a number of years ago she was not known in Miami and possibly not even in Cuba, and today the world’s collectors are dying to amass considered one of these pieces. Carmen exceeded the worth level of our beloved and really vital Amelia Peláez: her originals are already sold for thousands and thousands of dollars. These are the follies of the art market.
Counting, discounting, making a decent balance of your intense trajectory, what dreams do Víctor Gómez have left to satisfy?
Travel to Havana, where I haven’t set foot for 40 years.
What prevents you from doing so?
A bureaucratic affair with Immigration there. I even have applied for my passport, but, they are saying, I don’t appear within the records as a Cuban citizen, I don’t exist. On several occasions the Experimental Graphic Workshop of the Cathedral has invited me to exhibit, and it’s unattainable. The bureaucracy is deaf. And in addition blind.
I need to see Havana again, visit some friends I left in that city, perhaps say goodbye for the last time.
It is usually a desire to deepen my legacy, to go away a few of my work within the National Museum of High quality Arts. And, very importantly, I would love the differences between Cubans, the hatreds, to finish, that we are able to live in peace as a nation of powerful culture. And be definitely blissful.