14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 10 January 2015 – Outside the Galiano gallery in Central Havana yesterday, dozens of people gathered to enter the Añejo 27 [Aged 27] exposition. Some passersby were puzzled by the reasons for the tumult, perhaps thinking that eggs or pork had come to the ration stores. However, it’s “just art,” one disappointed girl told another who grimaced on hearing it.
The doors open and in the salon are hanging works from almost thirty years ago. “A liqueur from the past” with a strange taste of the present. The author of these drawings, collages and oils is Lázaro Saavedra, an artist with a stroke of the ironic and few words. Even so, 14ymedio managed to talk with him amid some images that characterize his work and his artistic generation.
Escobar: Graphic art and humor are in mourning this week because of the events at the weekly Charlie Hebdo. What did you think when you heard about this tragedy?
Saavedra: Rather than thinking, in the face of news like that what one feels is a very emotional reaction.
Escobar: Eight years have passed since the “little war of e-mails” in which you participated very actively. How has cultural policy changed at that time?
Saavedra: Everything has remained the same.
Escobar: In this exhibition, Añejo 27, there is an impressive effect in many of the themes and situations. Aren’t you frightened?
Saavedra: And what are the specific issues in which this effect is noticed?
Escobar: For example, this picture in front of us reminds me of the homework of my daughters who are now in elementary school.
Saavedra: You’re referring to the “Portrait of Che”? Yes, of course, it’s still current. That is, the entire canonization of historical figures continues.
Escobar: Tania Bruguera’s performance didn’t happen. Do you think it was too soon for a call like that?
Saavedra: I think so, it was too soon.
Escobar: What about Cuban art today, does it enjoy good health?
Saavedra: That’s a difficult question because if you think about health you have to counterbalance that with disease. In the answer to this question about disease, we have to be thinking about the cure for things to be better. Then we will have to detect what would be the points of sickness.
Escobar: The disconnect in artistic language, for example, with respect to what is happening in other countries in the world?
Saavedra: The disconnect in language has always been a constant in Cuban art. For example I did Volume One precisely because of this disconnect in Cuban art. In these times to do a work with new language could be considered a work of “ideological diversionism.” To some extent that is also what happened with Tania’s work, there is a disconnect in the appearance of the work with the traditional concepts of art.
Escobar: You’ve stood out as a teacher of new generations. What artistic surprises do young people have in store for us?
Saavedra: I don’t know now because I haven’t been teaching at ISA (Superior Institute of Art) for a few years, it’s been since about 2009 that I lost contact with the new generations.
Because of work problems I haven’t been able to give classes, in fact that is one of the doubts I have of myself. I would like to at least prove first hand, that is at the primary source, that this is what is being done at ISA. I refer to the place, because another thing is what comes out of ISA versus what is archived in ISA, which are two different things.