Pedro Vizcaínob. Havana, 1966. Resides in Miami, Florida.
The creative coordinates of Pedro Vizcaíno’s art stem from the late 1980s. The explosion of the Volumen I exhibition and the subsequent emergence of a “Cuban avant-garde theory” steeped in the contributions of Western postmodern thought—boldly defying official cultural models from the Eastern bloc—as well as the rise of a new model of art education around the workshops of the Instituto Superior de Arte, brought about a gradual but permanent change (not without its own contradictions) in the paradigms of Cuban art. All of these directly influenced the artist’s métier.
Succeeding generations of artists replaced the slogan of the 1971 First Congress of Education and Culture—”Art is a weapon of the Revolution”—with a critical view of their social context and the idea of the artist and his sources of inspiration as active forces. Whereas in the 1960s, it was cinema that had been the creative, heretic protagonist of the Revolution, the visual arts now moved to the forefront of Cuban culture, and have consistently remained there ever since.
Pedro Vizcaíno is a graduate of the San Alejandro Academy and later of the School of Artistic Education in Ciudad Libertad. Along with colleagues such as Pedro Álvarez, Alexis Esquivel, Armando Mariño, and art teachers such as Tanya Angulo, José A. Toirac, and Elio Rodríguez, Vizcaíno managed to avoid the lure of neo-conceptual, sociological trends entrenched in certain areas of Cuban art. His works remained faithful to two-dimensional painting, an approach shared by some of his fellow students. But instead of “bien fait Cuban paintings” (whether abstract or realist), ready to hang in serene living rooms or museum halls, Vizcaíno—together with the members of the ArteCalle group—opted for an art that is expansive and “coarse.” This work demonstrated a non-hierarchical use of composition, transformed into a visual diary capable of expressing the fleeting character of thought—always a work in progress. In this manner, the canvas became for him an energetic, heterodox surface, straightforwardly depicting the very images that inspire him, even reproducing them without regard for copyright.
“Doomed” to discover international art in the glossy pages of art magazines and old slides from History of Art courses, Vizcaíno transmuted his inability to travel and lack of first-hand access to key artworks into a critical, ironic distance from the traditions of art. Vizcaíno used characters borrowed from American and Cuban comics, imbibed (from books) New York graffiti of the 1970s that had been praised by Norman Mailer, and chose as authoritative sources such contemporary figures as Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring, and Jonathan Borofsky, as well as German Neo-Expressionism and Pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Ray Johnson. He distilled these sources through his peculiar Neo-Expressionistic temperament and his urgent need to express the convulsed dynamics of a reality both internal and external.
From its very title, The Sentimental History of Cuban Art (1993) presents an explicitly non-academic vision of its subject, filtered through an autobiographical prism and a caustic sense of humor. Painted after his trip to Mexico and Miami, this canvas is a great visual palimpsest, a slate on which he accumulates an apparent disarray of works appropriated from other artists: icons like the eye that pops up throughout the piece, fragments of Marvel Comics characters, human silhouettes that evoke Egyptian art. The reference to Roy Lichtenstein—the tearful girl—becomes the central and most recognizable motif in an ensemble put together literally as a collage. This allows Vizcaíno to show, without any sense of hierarchy, a tumultuous mood, a flow of sensations stemming from a Romantic root.
—Abelardo G. Mena Chicuri
Samples of Pedro Vizcaino's Works: