This month, St. Johns River State College’s Thrasher-Horne Center kicks off the season with its new, thrice-annual arts extravaganza, Thursdays @ Thrasher. The series features food, drink, music and meet-and-greets with exhibiting visual artists. Among the trio of artists invited to the inaugural edition is Cuban postmodernist Ciro Quintana. Quintana spoke to Folio Weekly about art, politics and the distance between Miami and Jacksonville.
Based in Miami since 1993, the Havana-born painter was a seminal figure during the Cuban Renaissance of the 1980s. Quintana and his Puré Group were the first Cuban artists to buck state-sponsored tradition and embrace New York art influences, particularly Pop Art.
“I’ve always expressed myself in the pop style of old comic books,” says Quintana. “When I was a small child, I learned to draw by copying comic books. I’ve always had a taste for that kind of image. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, you name it. But what I do is, I take the image and appropriate it. I’ll change the costume and the context.”
Quintana’s canvases are colorful affairs, peopled with superheroes, gangsters, flamingoes and industrial workers. It’s a surreal world in which the stoic, hammer-wielding proletarian of Socialist Realism tradition rubs elbows with Warholian cowboys as exotic fauna look on from the margins.
This appropriation of the Pop style reflects Cuba’s unique history, so physically close to the United States, yet isolated for decades by Cold War politics and their long—and enduring—hangover. Just as Cubans famously drive 1950s-era American cars, Quintana deliberately uses vintage iconography.
Lately, the artist has begun reaching even further back in time for his references.
“Pop art is still relevant,” says Quintana, “but I’m starting to move on. I’ve actually been incorporating more and more iconography from early 20th-century art movements and cinema.”
Quintana is showing 12 paintings and three collages at the Thrasher-Horne Center. The works were selected from recent solo exhibitions. Though the Cuban artist has travelled the globe with his art, Northeast Florida has been—up to now—unexplored.
“I have not been up there very much, to be honest,” he says, “but I’m looking forward to it. It’s a different world.”
The Thrasher-Horne Center was established on the Orange Park campus of St. Johns River State College in 2004, with a mission to bring performing and visual arts to Clay County. In addition to hosting dozens of theater productions and concerts, the Center boasts two gallery spaces.
“Our goal for Thursdays @ Thrasher,” says the Center’s Director of Marketing & Sales Anna Zirbel, “is to provide our community a new opportunity to meet our featured gallery artists face to face and learn insights as to how they create their work. We’re also expanding the event into a full celebration of the arts with additional local artists, music and food in our lobby.”
Artists scheduled to appear include Quintana, as well as local artists Sophie Dare and John Woods. Dare paints landscapes inspired by the natural beauty of this region. Woods captures scenes from everyday life using traditional film photography. The Fall Gallery Exhibit, featuring work from all three artists, is on display in the Thrasher-Horne Center’s Lee Adams Florida Artist Gallery until Oct. 19.