First published: Fall 2017
The artists affiliated with the Riera Studio are creatively motivated for the most personal reasons. Their styles and sensibilities are diverse, yet all share an intense expressive focus. Until the establishment of the Riera Studio in 2012, these individuals were unknown and often living on the margins of Cuban society. While none have formal academic training, their art is robust, defined and compelling.
Havana based artist Samuel Riera is the founder of the Riera Studio. This studio and workshop is Cuba’s first institution committed to art brut and outsider art. Unlike most Cuban arts organisations, Riera’s space is completely independent from the government and receives no official funding.
Esperanza Conde, 2011, mixed media on panel, 45.3 x 54.3 ins. / 115 x 138 cm
Samuel Riera is a graduate of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes “San Alejandro”, where he studied printmaking. From 2010 to 2011, as part of a project in Venezuela, Riera worked with a foundation that helped people who were drug addicted, homeless or living in violent, poor neighbourhoods. This was a multidisciplinary programme that included psychologists, social workers, doctors and artists. Riera’s involvement exposed him to the possibilities of art-making outside of a formal academic setting.
On his return to Cuba, Riera started his studio as a place that could present art not represented by government institutions. Over time, Riera came to understand that he was working with individuals who create art brut, and others who would be seen as outsider artists in the United States and Europe.
The most recent artist discovered by the Riera Studio is Esperanza Conde, who lives with her family in the remote countryside of Villa Clara. Conde, known to her friends as Pia, is a self-taught artist who feels compelled to paint. She has spent her entire life in an isolated, rural setting living simply off the land, yet her art is sophisticated and confident. Conde’s work is energised with colour and figures that bring vitality to the surface of paintings, and she passionately explores the human psychological condition in her art.
While pursuing his graduate studies in Czechoslovakia, mathematician Carlos Javier Garcia Huergo began to experience extreme behavioural changes. Following the onset of schizophrenia, he developed an interest in drawing. His art is elaborate, and rendered with a gentle hand. Numbers, words, human figures and animals are assembled on cardboard surfaces as if Huergo is illustrating a dream or fantasy. A mathematician expressing himself through art, Huergo has found a way to transform a cerebral experience into a visual format that is both thought provoking and unexpected…
While the Riera Studio is only a few years old, Samuel Riera has a thoughtful vision for his organisation. Many of the artists supported and represented by the studio are substantial and will inevitably be seen as important contributors to the fields of outsider art and art brut. Like Jean Dubuffet, Riera has the keen intuition to unearth and nurture exceptional creative talent that has often been overlooked by others.