Ibrahim Miranda is one of Cuba’s most prominent visual artists and has received significant international recognition over the years. A painter, engraver and professor, he is a native of Pinar del Rio and a graduate of Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. He belongs to a generation of artists whose substantial intervention in Cuban visual arts was spurred by an urgency to address the prevailing “sense of abandonment caused by the mass exodus of previous generations.” By the 1990s, during the so called “special period” of political and economic crisis (due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union), Miranda had already contributed to reshaping the nation’s aesthetic paradigms. He became “deeply engaged in the conceptual and formal re-examination of engraving” and renounced prints as a form of mass media available for widespread consumption. Instead of making art and reproducing it through prints, he applied new printmaking techniques to more personal subject matter.
In 1993 he began working on Las Islas de Cuba (The Islands of Cuba), a project that would become the basis for his map series for over 15 years. Initially, the process was simple: he removed the pages of an Atlas of Cuba from their original binding and selected from geographic, demographic, economic and socio-political maps. He then rearranged the sheets and pieced them together to form a large canvas for his cartographic drawings.
The title of Miranda’s first series Noche Insular: Jardines Invisibles (Insular Night: Invisible Gardens), was inspired by Jose Lezama Lima’s poem of the same name, depicting the Island as an enchanted place in a state of infinite metamorphoses. In the spirit of poetry and myth, the artist reinterprets the topic of insularity by emphasizing conditions of instability and vulnerability as markers of Cuba’s geographic location. Miranda’s colorful maps evoke the process of searching and inform us that “we inhabit a structurally insecure, provisional territory in constant metamorphoses” which isn’t as dogmatic as scientific cartography has shown us. The constant rearrangement of the maps is a way of erasing false totalities or ideologies. By transgressing their accuracy, he is able to discover figurative shapes in the solid structures of the cities and “turn the outline of Cuba into a small invertebrate animal.”
Miranda also reinterprets his vision of other places discovered in his continuous journeys. He combines grids, draws forms, traces lines in the streets of Paris, Tel Aviv or Washington to create city-islands built by a state of mind. The color planes are expanded into multiple shades of red, orange, green, blue and yellow. Some topographic references are lost, others enhanced by the use of bright contrast colors that sculpt new forms. Cities are an excuse to invent metaphors and manipulate space to reveal its hidden animal instinct of survival. The transformations into alligators, lizards, whales and elephants show us how each map is an obscure, unconfessed territory of our past. This amorphous geography is what defines us as human beings, it is a history we carry within us to know our interior selves. In expanding the borders and physical limits of origin, the artist makes the maps universal.
According to Miranda, his cartographic finds (or map glyphs as he calls them) “are a sort of urban bestiary: many animals highlight a space within a great city and that tiny part of the city transformed into moose, horses, elephants, pigs or sea horses turns out to be utopia…urban utopia is knowing that from the lines I apparently draw at random unnoticed animals emerge and walk the continents.” As physical maps become colorful isles, the artist reinforces his own birth place in which “spatial and politic limits distinguish [his] insularity.”
Miranda’s prints are part of public and private collections such as the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) of New York, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and Casa de las Americas in Cuba, Thyssen-Bornemisza Contemporary Art Foundation in Madrid, and the Apeldoorn Museum in the Netherlands. (fonte: Aotaart)