Pedro Pablo Oliva Invitation

– Leonora Oliva –

When Pedro Pablo Oliva (Pinar del Río, *1949) was announced as the winner of the Premio Nacional de Artes Visuales [1] in 2006, no one was surprised. According to David Mateo, this was “an award of public consensus.” This is because Oliva’s work is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of visual arts on the island. The prestigious distinction did not imply the establishment—already assured many years ago by said “public consensus”—but merely a confirmation of the substantial contribution of this creator with his work and his preeminent place in the history of Cuban art.

Pedro Pablo Oliva’s work has been shaped by the spirit of the so-called “generation of true hope,” which flooded the Cuban artistic field during the troubled 1970s. Molded mainly—artistically and ideologically—in the late 1960s in the classrooms and workshops of the National Art School of Cubanacán, the first of its kind founded by the still young Cuban Revolution. This academic formation, the faculty members, and an improbable mix of nostalgia and utopian projection (along with a certain sense of urgency urging the resumption and realization of the search for an idiosyncratic national expression) ended up bringing many of these artists, in form and spirit, closer to the project of the first Cuban modernity. These were years of explosive lyricism and utopian idealism disguised as realism, embodied in works that exalted rural life, the anonymous faces of the people, and the epic of the everyday individual, symbolically validated by revolutionary power. This imagery and its tradition were then flaunted and defended as key identifying elements in the expression of the “essential Cuban.”

Oliva manages to summarize the spiritual turmoil of a convulsed Cuba with images that are anagrams of everyday life. His artistic proposal arises from daily life, from the way the common man perceives the realities and circumstances surrounding him. His is an anecdotal work, with a local perspective, and it is precisely this condition that reflects its universality. Pedro Pablo Oliva demands from the viewer the understanding of more than just the formal aspects of an image or the conceptual precepts of a creative creed or manifesto: he demands the search and understanding of a context, of a “different” scene that, besides being “exotic” at first, shows an unparalleled authenticity when compared to the rest of the planet, and is equally full of humanity.

The pieces that make up Faces of an Island correspond to the painter’s work from 2013 to date. This is a small selection of Oliva’s abundant artistic production, an artist who never stops his creative activity for a single second. Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010, Pedro Pablo does not abandon his canvases or his cardboard: he is increasingly obsessed with line control, clinging to this act that defines him. Both sculptures and drawings exhibit the surrealism of the Cuban scene, with the paradigmatic style of drawing figures characteristic of this artist.

[1] The highest distinction awarded by the National Council of Visual Arts of Cuba to a Cuban artist residing on the island, for their life’s work.

Welcome Video
Artist Interview

Exhibition Catalog

Virtual Reality Exhibition
Computers | Phones and Pad

  • opening Thursday, August 25, 2016, 18:00 - 21:00
  • dates August 26, 2016 - September 16, 2023
  • hours 11:00 - 19:00
  • venue Rigistrasse 23, 8001 Zürich