Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia

From Cuba to Vietnam: “A Present Retrospective”

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By Clara Cheong

(470 words, 5-minute read)

A Present Retrospective, an exhibition showcasing archival prints of propaganda artworks created between 1969 and 1972, by the late and widely renowned Cuban graphic artist René Mederos, is on show at Work Room Four, alongside works by five other established contemporary Vietnamese artists in response to the series.

Felix René Medero, a self-taught illustrator, started out as a graphic designer at the tender age of 10. By the time he was 15, he was appointed Head Designer at the Cuban television station Intercommunications. It was there that he developed his distinct graphic style of vibrant colours and sharp contours in the posters.

René Mederos, "Female Mechanics" (1969), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Poltical Graphics. www.politicalgraphics.com
René Mederos, “Female Mechanics” (1969), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Political Graphics

 

René Mederos, "Female Farmers", (1969). Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Poltical Graphics www.politicalgraphics.com
René Mederos, “Female Farmers”, (1969). Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Political Graphics

In 1969, Mederos was appointed by the Cuban government to paint the scenes of the Vietnamese resistance war between the North and South. During this period, Mederos travelled with soldiers and villagers along Ho Chi Minh, living and working together with the Vietnamese community.

Rene Mederos, detail, "Soldiers" (1971), Paper, Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Poltical Graphics
René Mederos, detail, “Soldiers” (1971), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Political Graphics

 

René Mederos, "Fighting Soldiers" (1971), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Poltical Graphics
René Mederos, “Fighting Soldiers” (1971), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Political Graphics

These vibrant and detailed paintings depicted the grassroots revolutionary movement of the Vietnamese. They have since been exhibited by anti-war organizations and art galleries around the world.

Mederos passed away in Cuba on the 24th of September 1996.

Giang Nguyen, "Letters From The Battlefront", (2017), silkscreen print
Giang Nguyen, “Letters From The Battlefront”, (2017), silkscreen print

 

Giang Nguyen, "Letters From The Battlefront" (2017), silkscreen print
Giang Nguyen, “Letters From The Battlefront” (2017), silkscreen print

The exhibition features 18 archival prints of the paintings and posers that Mederos created during his two visits to Vietnam. Through the collaborative efforts of his grandson Marcelo Brociner and the assistance of both Carol Wells and Lincoln Cushings – directors of Center for the Study of Political Graphics and Docs Populi Archive in Berkeley respectively – who knew and actively promoted Mederos’ works through essays, lectures, books and exhibition, this will be the first time that they will be exhibited in Vietnam since their initial display.

Nguyen Nghia Cuong, "To Protect The Priceless Sea" (2016), powder paint on newspaper
Nguyen Nghia Cuong, “To Protect The Priceless Sea” (2016), powder paint on newspaper

 

Nguyen Nghia Cuong, "Higher Than The Mountain Determination" (2015), powder paint on newspaper
Nguyen Nghia Cuong, “Higher Than The Mountain Determination” (2015), powder paint on newspaper

Mederos’ work will be accompanied by the works of 5 contemporary Vietnamese artists (Le Quy Tong, Nguyen The Son, Nguyen Nghia Cuong, Pham Khac Quang and Giang Nguyen) whose artworks were created as a response to Mederos’ work as well as a reflection on contemporary Vietnamese society.

René Mederos, "School Group" (1969), Paper. Courtesy Of The Center For The Study Of Poltical Graphics
René Mederos, “School Group” (1969), Paper. Courtesy Of The Center For The Study Of Political Graphics

 

Rene Mederos, "Family Hiding Underground"
Rene Mederos, “Family Hiding Underground”, Paper.

 

Le Quy Tong, "Vietnam Shall Win" (2017), acrylic on canvas
Le Quy Tong, “Vietnam Shall Win 1” (2017), acrylic on canvas

 

Le Quy Tong, "Vietnam Shall Win 2" (2017), copper
Le Quy Tong, “Vietnam Shall Win 2” (2017), copper

As a retaliation to the conflict, and solidarity against the war, the collaborative efforts of this exhibition with its two contrasting narratives of past and present aims to inspire, prompt, and act as a space for dialogue focused on the legacy of Mederos’ work through the perspectives of Vietnamese artists of the 21st Century.

René Mederos, "Resting Soldiers" (1971), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Poltical Graphics
René Mederos, “Resting Soldiers” (1971), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Political Graphics

 

René Mederos, "Soldier Trail" (1969), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Poltical Graphics
René Mederos, “Soldier Trail” (1969), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Political Graphics

 

Pham Khac Quang, "The Frontline" (2017), woodcut print on canvas
Pham Khac Quang, “The Frontline” (2017), woodcut print on canvas

 

Pham Khac Quang, "The Frontline" (2017), woodcut print on canvas
Pham Khac Quang, “The Frontline” (2017), woodcut print on canvas

 

Nguyen Thế Sơn, "Red Days" (2017), silk painting
Nguyen Thế Sơn, “Red Days” (2017), silk painting

 

René Mederos, "Viet Nam Shall Win" (1971), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Political Graphics
René Mederos, “Viet Nam Shall Win” (1971), Paper. Courtesy of The Center For The Study Of Political Graphics

 

 


A Present Retrospective is on show at Work Room Four in Hanoi, daily from 16 May to 12 June, 10am – 6pm. Visit their Facebook page for more pictures and information.
Address: Packexim Building, Tower 1, 24th Floor, An Duong Vuong Street, Tay Ho, Hanoi

 

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  1. I recently acquired a few of these posters, some are not pictured above but i do have the last one (Viet Nam shall win). Any clue on the monetary worth of it? Its framed and in excellent condition.