Sunday, 8 September 2013

Street Art, Havana, Cuba

Havana is not Paris when it comes to street art. Almost anytime I can walk a circular route from my home in the 3eme and find superlative examples from some of the best artists working in the French capital today. Driving from the airport to Havana Vieja however, in a gold and tail-finned ’57 Chevy just by the by, I spotted nothing, nada.

There is a rash of officially approved propaganda posters, and wall paintings made by the local community with varying degrees of artistic skill, extolling the virtues of socialism and the revolution (study, work and take up arms), as one might expect, but nothing radical and independent. I had to look for it and look pretty hard. 

This is because, although I am told graffiti is not illegal in Cuba, the artist has to ask permission to make work, hence the community committee approved projects. After all, this is a country where the only advertising hoardings allowed are those expounding the necessity for continual revolution.

What I did find seemed to be imported; you don’t write ‘Hello Cuba’ if you are from here, right? Crews from Mexico, Brazil and Germany (Berlin and Hamburg) have been to Havana this year and last, helpfully signing and dating their work, which is restricted mainly to the hoardings around building works, with very little on walls and shop front shutters, let alone high up on buildings, although I did find one example of this. 

The work I found was amongst others by King Size and the One Up Crew, the UM24 Crew, Ed Rocha, PRC, GHS, RFZ and 403N15.  

Almost all of it is graffiti, meaning done freehand with spray paint. I only found two stencils very close together. There is very little tagging and no paste-ups that I observed. Stylistically it’s all in the hip-hop vein of things with some boldly ‘Ignorant’ lettering (or what I take to be such and wait to be corrected). 

Notable pieces are the Indian head on the corner of Brasil and Montserrate;  

and the hoardings across the street from it; the hoardings at the corner of Industria and Dragones; and something very political out of town near the University.  

On the side of a building at the corner of Universidad and Ave de los Presidentes is an Occupy related work noting all foundation dates of the world’s largest multi-nationals with a frightening figure eating the world, its body pinned down by ropes leading into a black sea labelled 99%.

Watch out for further photographic posts on more of the best bits.

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