Term Paper: Image Versus Text

Pages: 7 (1849 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature - Latin-American  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Political Environment

The Impact of the Art

The Artwork

Historiography -- Felix Rene Mederos Pazos

Felix Rene Mederos Pazos was an artist born in Cuba. He was a self-taught artist with no formal art training. Pazos spent much of his life working as a graphic designer in a print plant and also in television. This paper will look at the role of this artistic within the historical and cultural contexts that made him famous; or in some cases infamous.

The poster development in Cuba was born through the promotion of films. However, the posters were also used to promote the ideals of the Cuban revolution; peace and equality. Though the end goal of this revolution represents a higher ideal for society, the struggle to reach these goals was an incredibly bloody struggle. Furthermore, at the forefront of this struggle there stood the iconic legend of Che Guevara.

Che did not acquire his iconic throne without the help of his contemporary artists however. There work, such as the works of Mederos, elevated the images of the struggle and the revolution. The question can posed whether figures like Che influenced the art or if the art influenced the perceptions of Che and the Cuban people. The answer is most likely some combination of the two forces at play.

Author Bio

Felix Rene Mederos Pazos was born in Cuba in 1933. He began work somewhere near the age of eleven at a print shop in Havana and stayed in this industry for the entirety of his life. Though his initial roles were in print production, he later evolved into a graphic designer. His life was full of assignments with increased responsibility as an artist at every step of the way. He combined technical expertise and artistic ability to reach people in mass quantities through design of posters (Brociner, Kunzle and Cushing 1996).

Though he spent much of his life in Havana, his Cuban roots allowed his to travel extensively in some of the harshest political dramas in the twentieth century. In 1969 his was commissioned to travel to Vietnam to artistically record the devastation of the war by the Department of Revolutionary Orientation in Cuba. Cuba's interest in retaining Mederos to record such injustices was undoubtedly due to Cuba's struggles. They wished to portray the United States as an aggressor and a war criminal to justify their own political views and ambitions.

Political Environment

The most intense moments in the Cuban Revolution were fought from 1956 to 1959. This period comprises the bulk of the armed struggle; although the cultural struggle stretched over a much greater period (Thomas 1971). The origins of the revolution can be traced all the way back to the Spanish Colonial rule which dates back to all the way to the sixteenth century when the first Spanish conquers claimed the land for their own. Since that time, Cubans' have perceived themselves as under one form of occupation or another.

The political background of the twentieth century can be thought of as a cultural movement against Imperialism and Capitalism. The years of bloody struggles were responsible for toughening up the middle class in Cuba. They were no strangers to having to fight for the rights as citizens and as a result labor unions were created that on the verge of militarization. As a result the middle class had achieved a position that most country's middle class would be envious of. For example, there was a period in the 1950s in which Havana had more cinemas than New York City. They also boasted some of the most liberal working conditions of the period and also some of the highest incomes (per class) in the world.

The strength of the middle class set the stage for the events that followed; they were relatively wealthy, educated, and not prone to compromise. So when the Batista administration placed economic regulations upon Cuba that viewed as pro-imperialist and favored trade with the United States, this created a powerful resentment among the people of Cuba. The people of Cuba did not want be controlled or dominated by any other country as this represent a similar struggle that they only recently had finally broken free of.

The stage could have not been more favorable to Fidel Castro's rise to power. With the remnants of U.S. imperialism still resonating in their heads, the Cuban's welcomed Castro when he overthrew the Batista government in 1959. The military function of this operation was lead by Che Guevara who was a dynamic and controversial historical figure. Che was trained as a doctor in Argentina and had no formal military background; similar how Mederos had no formal art training. Che was incredibly intelligent though he is more known for being a guerrilla leader. His first documented move toward Marxism came as a result of a motorcycle trip that he took along the coast of South America. During this trip, he witness the social inequalities associated with the great inequalities in the distribution of wealth in South America at the time.

Castro's revolution in the mid-twentieth century still resonates with South American countries to this day. Resistance to the United State's economic imperialist control is a theme that is currently uniting many South American leaders. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, for example, speaks very critically of the United States publically. In fact, he called the U.S. president George Bush the devil in front of the United Nations in a presentation he delivered to the UN assembly. Chavez is not alone in this struggle either; he is joined by Morales in Bolivar and several others in an attempt to unite South America in order to combat the pressures the U.S. places on South America.

This political landscape has produced an atmosphere in which sentiment for revolution is wide spread in both counter-culture and also in some aspects and areas is mainstream sentiment. The fact that Cuba has successfully resistant constant pressures from the United States in terms of control is representative of the culture that is still present in Cuba today. The U.S. has placed pressure on Cuba though economic sanctions and has even went as far as using the CIA to attempt to assassinate key political figures and create havoc in hopes of destabilizing the government. The resistance to such attempts in great however and exists on different levels throughout Cuban society.

Che Guevara stands as focal point that represents much of this cultural struggle even to today. He is controversial because though much of his writing spoke of love and elevating the status of humanity (Guevara 1965) his tactics for achieving such a goal are in some instances grotesque. His ultimate vision of humanity was in many aspects similar to other leading pacifist ideals; however Che definitely used an ends-justify-the-means approach to trying to shape his vision into a reality. This controversy is at the heart of the iconographic representations of Che that have become almost ambiguous in Latin America throughout the twentieth century until today.

The Impact of the Art

The artist and the artwork were not chosen for the topic of This paper because of their artistic qualities. Rather, they were chosen because they represent a case of which art can greatly influence a society. As fore mentioned, Cuba had a plethora of cinematic venues in the mid-nineteenth century. These venues served as the perfect distribution route for the political posters that were displayed there.

Another interesting point is that Cubans were already predisposed to judging posters and admiring the artwork portrayed by movie posters. One can only speculate on how this influenced the citizens' ability to appreciate art that served a different end. It can almost be thought of as training. If an individual had exposure and experience viewing art in this particular type of format, maybe it built the appreciation for the type of artwork that made it possible to view other messages illustrated in the same form.

The popularity of poster art reached mass scales in Cuba in the 1940s (Rivadulla 2000). There were different ways of printing these works that were constantly evolving throughout the years; offset, lithography, silkscreen, and letter presses were being used and the quality also got better as the industry developed. This allowed for more design options and as a result there was a wider variety of different types and consistencies being display at Cuban cinemas throughout the years. This was also a result on the Cuban culture fully embracing the cinematic experience. Furthermore, Cubans looked to the movie posters to judge whether or not they would chose to the film. Therefore, artists who designed such posters also bared the pressures associated with successfully marketing the film to the general public.

The Artwork

Mederos's work chosen was the last one he produced publically in his lifetime. The entire composition was a story board composed of different posters; almost like a mosaic but with a common clear political theme. The theme told the story of the Cuban Revolution through the artist's eyes… [END OF PREVIEW]

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