Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Short Look At the Cuenca Art Scene

I've gotten to know Ecuadorian art in three different ways in the two or so months I've spent here.  One is through street art, which I have to say I find mostly terrifying and off-putting.  The street art in Bogota was colorful and exciting and imaginative; the street art I've seen in Quito, Baños, and Cuenca looks like one of your creepier acid trips: paranoia tinged with apathy and despair.

Also, I have an age-old phobia of octopuses, or giant red bugs that look like octopuses (octopi?)  This is actually one of the less harrowing street murals.  It's painted on one of the walls overlooking El Barranco, the cobblestone walkway along the prettiest river I've seen since I came to South America.  Seriously, who wants to look at a demented, red octopus when you can look at this?

Anyway, the other day while exploring some of the cathedrals and plazas in the downtown areas, I came across a Museum of Modern Art and decided I'd take a look.  This was, in fact, a terrible idea, because what that museum actually held was nightmare fodder for the next four months or so of my vacation.

It reminded me of this Soviet Czech film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland I saw once, where Wonderland was basically someone's neverending tool shed filled with rusty protractors and dusty workbenches, and the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter were these moth-eaten, demented wind-up tinker toys.  This was quite possibly the most horrific art museum I've ever been to.

And then last weekend I was invited by Lino, a guy sleeping in my hostel room, to come and see his art exhibition.  His work, while still pretty dark, was much more interesting than the stuff at the museum.  It was fascinating seeing how his style evolved over the past three years.  My favorites were his earlier works, which were done in a very illustrative style, and had a lot of color and energy to them.

And then, mysteriously, the works from 2013 became much less friendly and more, to my mind, misogynistic.  There were a series of digital paintings of the top halves of women's faces where their eyes had been so doctored and stylized that they looked like dolls, and then a series of naked, shimmering female torsos.  It was especially interesting because Lino, from the talking with him that I did, is very cool and thoughtful and not at all your stereotypical macho Latino.

At any rate, afterwards we headed out into the city with a bunch of his artist friends and ended up at a bar overlooking El Barranco, drinking beers and a big pitcher of this hot cocktail from sugarcane liquor and naranjilla juice called canelazo.  The stuff basically tastes like warm Sunny Delight, and I downed most of the pitcher without realizing it.  And, as it's essentially all sugar, I woke up with the worst headache of my life.  But it was altogether a great show and a great night, and a good send-off from Ecuador.

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