McMullen Museum of Art presents 'Lost Generation: Women Ceramicists and the Cuban Avant-Garde'
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McMullen Museum of Art presents 'Lost Generation: Women Ceramicists and the Cuban Avant-Garde'
Mariano Rodríguez (1912–90), Fishermen, 1950. Oil on canvas, Col. Silvia & Emilio M. Ortiz.

CHESTNUT HILL, MA.- The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College is showing an exclusive exhibition, The Lost Generation: Women Ceramicists and the Cuban Avant-Garde, which examines the participants and artistic output from 1949 to 1959 of the Taller de Santiago de las Vegas, a ceramic workshop on the outskirts of Havana.

The bilingual (English-Spanish) exhibition opened yesterday in the McMullen Museum’s Daley Family and Monan Galleries and will continue through to June 2, 2024. The majority of the nearly two hundred works on display are from a private collection, and have never before been exhibited in the United States. The exhibition is the first to show how these innovative works by avant-garde women ceramicists influenced other artists of that period whose focus was on more established media. Until now, organizers note, Cuban avant-garde (vanguardia) design has been defined as a male-dominated movement.

“The McMullen is pleased to present The Lost Generation, the seventh exhibition organized as part of its Hispanic Art Initiative, which ventures into the little-explored, women-dominated medium of mid-twentieth-century Cuban artistic ceramics,” said Nancy Netzer, Inaugural Robert L. and Judith T. Winston Director of the McMullen Museum and Professor of Art History.

“Thanks to generous loans from private collectors and galleries, curator Elizabeth Thompson Goizueta [McMullen Museum adjunct curator] has assembled an outstanding selection of ceramics produced in the visionary Dr. Juan Miguel Rodríguez de la Cruz’s Taller de Santiago de las Vegas. Thompson Goizueta has paired the ceramics with paintings and sculptures by Cuba’s second- and third-generation modernists to reveal for the first time how the avant-garde ceramicists’ innovations exerted powerful influence on artists working in more traditional media.”

The Lost Generation: Women Ceramicists and the Cuban Avant-Garde

The exhibition examines the participants and artistic output from 1949 to 1959 of the Taller de Santiago de las Vegas, a ceramic workshop near Havana. A decade of artistic experimentation primarily by little-known women ceramicists had deep reverberations both for the acceptance of ceramics as a fine art form in Cuba and for the symbiotic relationship that flourished between the ceramicists and the painters, largely men, who visited the Taller to learn the craft. The painters in turn applied new techniques and methodologies to their two-dimensional production, which is now regarded as synonymous with the Cuban avant-garde (vanguardia).

Featuring nearly 150 vases, mugs, water jugs, murals, and plates drawn from premier private and gallery collections, The Lost Generation displays for the first time many of the Taller’s finest ceramics in conversation with dozens of paintings and sculptures by Amelia Peláez, René Portocarrero, Wifredo Lam, Luis Martínez Pedro, Mariano Rodríguez, and others. In addition to the ceramics, thirty-seven paintings, three sculptures, and archival materials from the ceramic workshop will be on display.
At the helm of the Taller was physician Juan Miguel Rodríguez de la Cruz, who formed and fired the ceramics and hired mainly women, many of whom were trained at the prestigious Academia San Alejandro and other fine arts schools, to decorate the wares. These ceramicists created their own styles, establishing an artistic movement that garnered national and international recognition.

Among the artists whose work is included are key ceramicists at the Taller; they, along with Rodríguez de la Cruz, welcomed the participation of renowned modernist painters and sculptors, whose pieces are also on display. Represented in the exhibition are also those who worked in the milieu of the Taller. They are: Marta Arjona, Elia Rosa Fernández de Mendía, Mirta García Buch, Aleida González, Rosa Jiménez, María Elena Jubrías, María Pepa Lamarque, Amelia Peláez, Rebeca Robés Massés, Ofelia Sam, Wifredo Arcay, Agustín Cárdenas, Viredo Espinosa, Maximiliano González Olazábal, Julio Herrera Zapata, Wifredo Lam, René Martínez Palenzuela, Luis Martínez Pedro, José María Mijares, Raúl Milián, René Portocarrero, Mariano Rodríguez, Juan Miguel Rodríguez de la Cruz, and Leopoldo Romañach.

“I am honored to be introducing in this exhibition a whole generation of unknown or underrepresented Cuban women ceramic artists,” said curator Elizabeth Thompson Goizueta, adjunct curator at the McMullen and former Boston College faculty member in Hispanic studies. “Their contributions are not limited to Cuba alone but rather are emblematic of the greater international mid-century modernist movement.

“Until now, Cuban avant-garde (vanguardia) design has been exclusively defined as a male-dominated movement. In the twenty-first century, we are finally recognizing the complexity and fullness of our societies and their participants,” she said.

The trajectory of ceramics following the Cuban Revolution of 1959 is also explored in the exhibition. According to organizers, many of those who worked at the Taller went on to found their own independent workshops, furthering the commercialization, and acceptance, of fine art modernist ceramics on the island.

Lenders to the exhibition include a prominent private collection, Cernuda Arte, Latin Art Core, Pan American Art Projects, Silvia and Emilio M. Ortiz, Isaac and Betty Rudman, and several anonymous collectors.

Organized by the McMullen Museum, The Lost Generation has been curated by Elizabeth Thompson Goizueta and underwritten by Boston College with major support from the Patrons and the Hispanic Art Initiative of the McMullen Museum.

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