Nuez and his
THROUGH his cartoons, René de la Nuez has
undertaken, and his work in its entirety confirms
that he has succeeded in its aim, to leave behind
the historical memory of his time. In recent years,
through his precise strokes, his acuity and capacity
for observation, he has regaled us with his vision
of Havana, and he has done so, as always, with a
high esthetic and technical quality.
He has just had an exhibition opened in the Pablo
de la Torriente Brau Majadahonda Room, which he has
titled Almendrones de Nuez, the last of a
series which included La Bicicleta (Bicycles,
the sine qua non transport of the 90s); Humor
habano where the drawings have bands, labels,
all kinds of references to cigars and the city; and
La pícara Habana.
In that last exhibition, mounted after he won the
2007 National Visual Arts Prize, he shows people in
the so-called "shopping" (hard-currency stores). The
artist uses as a myth these stores which, as he
explains, "are definitely full of bad taste, of
kitsch. There is a Cuban kitsch and those stores
have helped it to expand a lot. It is what these
drawings have, they don’t have a joke, I don’t make
jokes, I take reality, which is sometimes nicer than
one might imagine."
In a brief interview in his home-studio, Nuez
talks about his almendrones, as he has named
in popular slang U.S. automobiles of the 30-40s and
50s of the last century, and which are still running
on Havana’s streets.
Tell us about your "human architecture"…
My intention has always been to set about leaving
behind a graphic memory of Havana. Not the Havana of
Lezama, or Carpentier or Portocarrero. It is another
reality, where the architecture is human, it is the
soul of the city, constantly being transformed. I
have tried to capture that movement, the motivations
that make the people of my city how they are. I say
my city, because although San Antonio de los Baños
is my native town, Havana adopted me when I was very
young. First the bicycles, then the tobacco labels,
to La pícara Habana. It is for me the image
of the city, the human and not architectural. My
drawings are of the people. When I paint the people
it is understood that they are on the Malecón, but
you don’t see the wall, you imagine it.
And now the almendrones…
When I received the National Visual Arts Prize, I
had to do an exhibition in the Museum of Fine Art
and so I did one that was already maturing in
paintings on canvas, La pícara Habana. So I
have been working on the subject, which brought me
to the almendrones, a part of the landscape
of Havana. They are old cars. They say that Cuba is
a rolling museum of those cars. But my
almendrones are visual images, it isn’t about
copying an old car. I wanted to give them the
characteristics of they themselves being a grand
museum. It isn’t just a car, but it is, with its
people inside, their destinations, the Capitolio,
the city neighborhoods, I include legends on their
fenders. They are created by me as a testimony of
what is rolling in Havana and also as a testimony of
that daily life which we have and invent in order to
survive. That is the genesis of this exhibition.
Havana with its almendrones enchants me as a
visual image, they give free rein to the imagination.
Let’s go back to historical memory…
I would like the series that I have done on
Havana to constitute a historical memory of what
this city is, what it was in this epoch. My drawings
have the customs, the clothes, this fashion that has
been imposed to walk around in flip-flops, almost
naked in the street, the gesticulations of the
Havana people of today, the bicitaxis. That’s
how this epoch is and I want it to remain for ever.
When you want to paint a coachman, a lady of 19, you
have to go to the drawings of Landaluze. I would
like people to go to my drawings when they want to
paint the Havana of these times.
It is a wide-ranging exhibition…
Close to 30 drawings of different sizes, with
acrylic and ink on Bristow board, and sometimes
crayon for certain colors, because almost all of
them are in black and white. The humor is in the
lines, in what the drawing expresses, there is no
humoristic situation. The drawings are in function
of transmitting an idea with humor, via its
contrasts, but not a professed joke.
After this exhibition…
I’m going to change to other subjects. I am
closing the picaresque aspect of Havana with the
almendron. Time is moving on. I have two big
ideas. One subject would be a collection of comics.
They are chaos-comics, without characters, just
movement. All the language of comic books without
characters. You have to be the character when you
come to the comic. A great game. They are
expressionist through force, now I’m doing them in
black and white. I’m also writing a book about my
life, not my memoirs, a bit more like a novel; I
would say, like everyone, of lies and certain truths
and let people go in search of them.
Are you satisfied?
I have enjoyed working very much. I enjoy it, it
gives me pleasure. I enjoy what I do, I enjoy my
drawings. These almendrones, the bicycles,
and a book that I hope will come out soon, which is
called Habana auto de fe, are a constant of
the city, its people, the way of confronting daily
life, fighting for a better life, with an
extraordinary desire to belong to this city and in
defense of this city and resistance in this city.
That is what I wanted to give expression to in these
almendrones. Resistance by living, by
triumphing. I will always try to draw the historical
memory of my country, of my city. Children draw
before they can talk and I am a child, I don’t talk
well but I keep on drawing.
Following the characters of René de la Nuez, from
that icon which is El loquito, or the bearded
one, is to appreciate a gallery of figures who are
already part of Cuban popular culture and which we
owe to his hands, his essentially Cuban spirit, and
In Almendrones also, Nuez delves into the
roots, into the keys of the Havana way of being,
with an analytical attitude. Here is the enjoyment
and the petition of the artist to meditate on what
he hands to us in his strokes.