The art of Eduardo Hernández Santos

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From the series Aproposito los flores.

In 1993 I made Homo-Ludens, which was the first homoerotic exhibition to take place in Cuban photography after the Revolution. This show was committed to a direct, frontal discourse, but very aesthetic. It was not intended to reflect great contradictions, but to propose to society that the male body was also an object to analyze, that it was a source of pleasure, and not only to women.

Cuban artist Eduardo Hernández Santos talking in 2016 about his career (here and here). In addition to straightforward photography, Santos favours collage as a technique, combining his own photographs with fragmented slogans and other imagery. The late date of the Homo-Ludens exhibition is a result of the slow evolution of attitudes towards sexuality in Cuban society. Fidel Castro regarded gay men as degenerates, a common sentiment in Communist circles in the 1960s, and one shared by many fascists. A striking thing about homosexuality is the way you can be despised by a wide variety of people who wouldn’t agree with each other about anything else.

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From the series Corpus Fragiles.

It’s tempting to wonder what Jean Genet would have thought about Santos’s photographs of male nudes with flowers. Genet used flowers for their symbolic qualities almost as much as Oscar Wilde, so even though it’s unwise to try and second-guess him I imagine he’d appreciate their use here.

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Untitled (2000).

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From the series Palabras.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Gregorio Prieto, 1897–1992
Emil Cadoo

2 thoughts on “The art of Eduardo Hernández Santos”

  1. It’s always a bit surprising to realize how puritanical the Bolsheviks were. They resembled nothing so much as murderous Calvinist theologians. Ironical since in the West there has always been assumed a relationship between Left politics and liberality in culture. No Puritan worse than a Left wing Puritan. Alas, the scold, the pecksniff, the moral shitheel we have with us always.

  2. Puritanism is an inevitable result of any rigid ideology since it’s all about controlling human behaviour. Art falls foul of the ideologues for the same reason as homosexuality: they both suggest there are other ways to lead your life beyond those proscribed by the state. And they’re both regarded as decadent if they’re not contributing to the nation. Straight people breed more workers.

    I think it’s often the case that a visceral response comes first which is later qualified by the ideology. There was no reason for the Soviets to take against avant-garde art when post-Revolutionary Russia had been in the vanguard for a while. But Stalin disliked it so it was all deemed “counter-Revolutionary”.

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