THE NEW YORK TIMES: T MAG - The Man Bringing Contemporary Cuban Art to America

The Man Bringing Contemporary Cuban Art to America

Written by: Carson Griffith

"Long before travel restrictions from the U.S. to Havana were relaxed, Bryant Toth, the former membership manager at New York’s Soho House, had racked up quite a few visits — and a growing collection of contemporary Cuban art. The pieces he brought back sparked immediate interest among his friends, and before he knew it, Toth, 28, was a de facto dealer. “I didn’t have this grand vision,” he explains. “My friends just asked about the artists.” By last fall, demand was so high that Toth left Soho House to work full-time with seven of them, displaying their work mostly on his website and Instagram account, but occasionally in pop-up gallery shows, too: One he mounted at the Hotel Chelsea last November for the painter Hector Frank, a 55-year-old former electrical engineer, nearly sold out. Toth will exhibit the work of Cuban artists including Frank later this year in New York and Los Angeles."

FORBES: Artist Matthew Tierney Disregards The Limitations Of Linear Perspective

Written by: Adam Lehrer

Silicon Valley-raised, New York-based artist Matthew Tierney is an information nerd. When I spoke with the artist at his recent exhibition at Bryant Toth Fine Arts, our conversation jettisoned from topic to topic, with Tierney thoughtfully ruminating on each subject that came up. A conversation discussing his San Francisco upbringing moves from San Francisco’s lack of an art structure, to Sarah Lucas’s recent museum survey in San Francisco, to Sarah Lucas’s cultural importance in comparison with her fellow Young British Artist peers, to other YBA’s that have stood the test of time, to Tierney’s love of under-appreciated YBA, poet and musician Billy Childish. Moving through subjects with ease and clarity, Tierney looks at the entirety of culture through a credible, informed and open-minded viewpoint.

Adam LehrerTierney’s cultural outlook is undeniably contemporary, viewing the world through a decidedly Duchampian mindset that makes no delineation between high and low culture. He appreciates Supreme as much as high end designers like Raf Simons, listens to electronic music with the same understanding that he does opera, and watches as many pop corn films as he does Truffaut movies. That outlook is filtered into his paintings.

“The separation of culture, the fact that fashion, music, performance and art is separated, is ludicrous,” he says. “Go back to Plato. There is no separation between mediums. Fashion, philosophy, art: these things are all connected. They just want to commoditize all these separate mediums, so corporations dictate that creative people stay in their lanes. The fact that people want to commoditize my work is great, but there’s no way I’m going to allow for a disintegration between the culture that I create."

Tierney’s Bryan Toth show, Empires Fall/The Dance Goes on, was the artist’s first solo exhibition. Remarkably, however, Tierney has already cultivated an influential group of collectors and has seen his paintings placed alongside 20th century masters like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol.

Tierney has earned the support of important mentors. The iconic British curator Norman Rosenthal, who is widely regarded for his support of various neo-expressionists in the 1980s (Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente and Anselm Kiefer) and the Young British Artist’s in the 1990s, took an early interest in Tierney’s work. Rosenthal then introduced Tierney to none other than David Hockney who also champions Tierney’s work and has given him notes and feedback. Hockney latched onto the concept of time in Tierney’s paintings. Hockney, among others, have noted Tierney’s ability to stretch his perspective capturing something wider and more open, as opposed to being frozen within a singular moment. "He really pushed me to take time, extend time, make it cyclical and explode it,” says Tierney. “That was my whole idea with these paintings was to do away with linear perspective.”

The majority of the paintings in the show, or The Dancer series, employ a Mattisean color palette and renders form recalling both the commercial imagery of Warhol’s vision of pop (especially when considering the fashion and glamorous element in the paintings) and Francis Bacon’s incomprehensible surrealist shapes. The subjects are female dancers captured during a moment that suggests something far more infinite than the poses allude to. 

Tierney, unlike many young artists, embraces the history of modern art, and discerns how that language can be reinterpreted and shattered for a contemporary digital world. I asked Tierney if he thought his respect for his forebears had anything to do with the appreciations he’s earned from icons like Hockney or Rosenthal. Tierney thought there was something to that assertion, but that there was something deeper at play. “I’ve just had these opportunities to be in the room with someone like Hockney, and I’ve felt blessed to be in those rooms and took that time to learn,” says Tierney. “Maybe it is connected to art history somehow, but I think it’s more an openness to ideas and to learning.”

Tierney grew up drawing, and has never stopped drawing. He thinks about drawing as a language, and wants to keep building upon that language and uses it to guide his notions of form and beauty. But instead of studying painting or the fine arts, Tierney actually went to UCLA film school. But he soon felt out of place and turned his focus to painting.

While respectful of his teachers, it was quickly noted that Tierney’s passions lied slightly outside the traditions of a film education. Amazingly, the Dean of his program was remarkably understanding of Tierney’s needs and allowed him to take a quarter off of school and focus on the creations of Tierney’s choosing. “I was painting all the time, making music, making my own short films,” says Tierney. “So what he thought was best for me was to produce a body of work and present it to faculty after every quarter. That’s what I was graded on. It could be a show about painting. About music. Something that relates to sciences or mathematics. As long as I created a body of work he’d pass me.”

At the end of the quarter, while his classmates were presenting pieces of writing, short films, and plays, Tierney presented a cross-platform multimedia art experience. He put 250 paintings that he had recently made along a wall, and on the opposite wall projected a video. He had composed 30 minutes of music that accompanied the video stream for 29 minutes. For the last minute of music, the lights were switched back on and the audience was instructed to face the paintings for one solitary minute. When the music was done, the room faded to black. “They all thought I was crazy,” he says with a bemused smirk.

Man Ray, the iconic surrealist photographer and artist, was asked by press constantly whether he’d ever give up painting because at a certain point he was making a much more sizable income from his photographic pursuits. Ray would shoot down these questions, reinforcing his belief that artists being forced to “stay in their lane” was a bourgeoise notion handed from the elite class to the working class that was used to control artists by still making them choice a vocation. Tierney subscribes to this belief 100 percent. While mastering his painting, he has also continued making music and designing sets for operas and plays. He is particularly passionate about a project he’s working on with his friend and opera composer Harley Adams. Adams is headed towards India on a Fulbright scholarship to study the Thugee tribe. The Thugees were both activists and bandits, halting the spread of colonialization with violent means. The American gang culture nomenclature “Thug Life” is believed to be influenced by these gangs. Projects like these are testament to Tierney’s restless spirit and insatiable thirst for knowledge and new ideas.

In an essay, Adams has said that Tierney’s work acts as “an archive of human and digital processes.” Though it’s hard to read into the statement devoid of context, it feels accurate. Though Tierney is playing with concepts inherent to our digitized world, his work is much better experienced in-person. The vastness of the moments depicted in his dancer paintings don’t necessarily translate through a screen. It’s art to look at directly from the human eye to the canvas, without the buffer of the computer and all the existential baggage that gets tacked onto the digital experience. He’s an artist that doesn’t exist in a vacuum and he doesn’t claim to. He acknowledges the history that came before him and defines what the culture is to him now. That’s all an artist needs to do. “If we hit all those cornerstones of 20th century art, we’re appropriating all the mediums and embracing what our culture is now,” he says.

THE KNOCKTURNAL - Matt Tierney's "empires fall | the dance goes on" BRYANT TOTH FINE ART

Written by: Benjamin Schmidt

Matt Tierney has his first solo show at Bryant Toth Fine Art- and it couldn’t have come at a better time. On view until Oct 29 in NYC.

Deeply concerned and apparently troubled enough to do something, Matt Tierney composed his first solo show in NYC with a degree of call-and-response. It’s Matt responding to- or rather, diagnosing- a current arrangement in American politics and its culture as a whole. Assigning new terms to a phenomenon Tierney seems to know intimately, “EMPIRES FALL | THE DANCE GOES ON” at Bryant Toth Fine Art is one show hinged on engaging with a new, sensitive space; a space of political purgatory, regarded as “dieback”. Definition, according to Tierney: the period in which an empire is the in the state of its falling. Controlled and gracious, Tierney has created a selection of paintings depicting female dancers. Sixteen large scale works, documenting the dance that goes on amid this dieback. Urgent in color, Tierney opts for vibrant orange – a color of caution and temporary danger and a light blue signifying some degree of acceptance. The “call” here is that of a failing government- and the need to continue the dance. It’s hard to even regard this as a need- it’s a way of being. The dance is perpetual. But each figure, alone on the canvas, twirl and go aimlessly and patiently, swirling as they can, demonstrating an innate patience amid temporary danger.

Tierney is no stranger to the art scene nor current events, the Silicon Valley-born artist has always engaged with modern spaces, reflecting and responding to current stimuli. Typography, branding, capital interests and more move Tierney, and not just in the direction of political. Though without much press, He’s landed in the collections of some of the most influential art families in the world. He counts David Hockney as a friend. His studio in Brooklyn is loaded with works he’s started. Reserved but kind, Tierney has let the world speak for themselves, as well as let others speak around them. In the next week, the Tierney show will play host to a number of events connected to this moment of dieback: Friday, October 20 a film preview of “Never Here” will take place, with Camille Thoman and a Sam Shepard Reading. “Never Here” premiered at Oldenburg International Film Festival, and opens in New York on October 20. (The Hollywood Reporter).

Camille will present a preview of the film, followed by a conversation about her inspirations and how the film relates to the theme of “empires fall | the dance goes on”. The evening will also include a reading of Cowboy Mouth in honor of the late Sam Shepard. The film features Sam Shepard. The doors open at 6:30pm, the trailer and discussion at 7pm and the reading at 8:00pm.

On Sunday, recording artist Black Gatsby will perform with the YoungArts Alumni at Toth Gallery. D’Angelo Lacy has been featured on the Empire television show (“Fist Full A Dollas”, which was on the soundtrack for Empire’s second season) as well as a number of features on Twin Shadow albums as well as with Solange Knowles on “Sleep in the Park”. The soul and R&B singer takes the stage at 7:30pm, with doors at 7pm.
 

Matt Tierney “empires fall | the dance goes on” Until Sunday, October 29, 2017 at

BRYANT TOTH FINE ART | 195 Chrystie, NYC

COOL HUNTING: Three-Act Exhibition, "Empires Fall | The Dance Goes On"

Written by: David Graver

Even before entering Bryant Toth Fine Art, one can witness the power of color that's been restrained, precisely framed and hung just beyond the glass. The works, by artist Matthew Tierney, capture dancers in a position of movement, and allude to movements of the past and future. Tierney's exhibition, "Empires Fall | The Dance Goes On," sits at many intersections: politics and dance, paint and pixel, anonymity and exposure. Tierney has assembled three acts across two rooms, with the narrative structure announced by friend and writer Zachary Hyatt's text upon entry. Tierney's install is as precise as the works themselves and while there's the aforementioned guidance, everything is up for interpretation.

16 of the works on site (comprising all but one of the works in the first room) were drawn from Tierney's "dancer" series. They have their own type of precision. "We wanted hyper-precision [for the install] because all of the pieces are precise. Essentially, in the art, we're playing with individual pixels—it's paint and pixel, it's a mix of digital and painting," Tierney explains during our walk through. "We wanted the show to be hung as mathematically perfect as possible while creating a narrative structure that ties in with the pieces." Entering the gallery means entering the first act. "You're within the dance. You move within the dance," he adds. This is, until viewers reach a piece with the word "Eunoia" painted upon it. It's ancient Greek and translates to cultivated good will. In a way it announces act two. When look at another way, it's a piece of punctuation.

Act two—or room two—begins with color, a "hot spot" as Tierney calls it. "This is where we begin to engage with a fallen, or falling empire," he continues. The room centers around a sculpture of a severed hand clutching a bolt. A penny rests atop it, perhaps referencing the price of the ferryman over the River Styx. Text-based paintings wrap around the walls. There's a brevity to them, from rapid brushstrokes to the sharpness of each word. They feel concentrated but allow guests to derive as much or as little meaning as they want. Most notable is "dieback," which means the act of when a tree begins to die, and how it dies from the tip of the leaves first and then down to the roots. This room delivers the exhibition's weight—though allows for an empire to be that of a nation or of a self or even of a gender. Two final pieces can be found here, one hidden in the space and one hiding part of the space.

Tierney explains that act three is the return through or the continued movement back to room one and out. There is a severity to the exhibition altogether, but this can be ignored to enjoy the visuals solely. Color (and the lack there of) defines the aesthetic experience. And the figures of dancers, they're obstructed just as much as they're embodied. Tierney has been producing these works for years but the concept began to take shape even further back in time. "I looked at a notebook that was started at the end of 2010—dancers hung precisely with text," he says. And really, that's just the start of it.

"Empires Fall | The Dance Goes On" runs 19-29 October at Bryant Toth Fine Art, 195 Chrystie St, NYC. Tierney and the gallery will host several events on site, including a drag performance, fashion show and discussion hosted by D'Angelo Lacy, and a trailer screening of Camille Thoman's film "Never Here," and a play-reading honoring the late Sam Shepard.

SURFACE MAGAZINE: Havana Rising

Written by: TONY PERROTTET

"Over the last 5 years, the new property laws have also led to a urry of private renovations of mansions surviving from another architectural golden age: the sugar boom years of the late 19th to early 20th centuries. For travelers, the most acces- sible are the paladares (home-spun restau- rants) and casas particulares (family-run hotels). Filmmaker Rafael Rosales, for example, has turned his town house, built in 1919, into Madrigal, a café and meeting spot with bizarre murals and memorabilia from Cuban cinema.

In the district of Playa, three up-and- coming young artists whose work sells in the six gures banded together to renovate a mansion into the slick 331 Art Space, whose crisp white lines and sun- lled sky- lights evoke a gallery in Chelsea. “Things have been busy since The New York Times and Wall Street Journal [both] pro led us,” says Frank Mujica, one of the trio, who cre- ates works of graphite on canvas. “There have been so many visitors that we have to limit access. We need to work some time!”

Nearby, the painter Hector Frank de- signed his own studio addition to his house, in part funded by a successful exhibition at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. Frank, now in his fties, is self-taught, and began making art in the austere Special Period— an era of economic turmoil in the early ’90s, precipitated by the fall of the Soviet Union. As a result, he takes a more ironic view of the fashionable Cuban art scene. His subtle portraits are embedded with found ob- jects from the city streets—sections of old doors, window frames, rusted handles. “I need to nd more garbage,” he says. “These discarded fragments have life, they have history. Havana is a treasure trove.”

This trend of renovating privately is still an experimental eld in Cuba. Architecture is not on the roster of professions permit- ted by the government, so the work must be done with guile. Artisans can now make and sell items like furniture and tiles, but they and interior designers often have lim- ited access to raw materials, so they become experts in improvising. As one designer told me, “This is Cuba. If something is not available, it is really not available!”

Still, I got a sense of the potential when

I dropped by the mansion of Josie Alonzo, a tiny, elderly woman who came to Cuba from Spain seven decades ago and has lived alone since her husband’s death a few years ago. Her rambling home was a Catholic version of house from The Addams Fam- ily, but also an artistic dream: Designers in London, Paris, and New York would kill to recreate her naturally distressed walls and ceilings. I was clearly not the only one fascinated by the house’s eerie beauty. Sit- ting on her dressing room table was a copy of last November’s issue of Vanity Fair. It turned out—in a twist only true to mod- ern Cuba—that Rihanna had been pho- tographed by Annie Liebowitz here for a cover story. “Rihanna was awful!” Señora Alonzo says, as she puttered in the kitch- en. “Such terrible manners. She didn’t say a word to me. But Annie was a wonderful person.” (Rihanna’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.) "

 

FORBES: Curator Bryant Toth Draws NYC's Attention Towards the Best in Cuban Visual Art at Chelsea Hotel

By: Adam Lehrer

“Ever since my first trip to Havana, I was quickly exposed to a very real, thriving and warm culture,” says Bryant Toth of the SoHo House who curated the “Bryant Toth Fine Art – Cuban Art Exhibition” at the Chelsea Hotel on June 25, “I was hooked after the first trip and enamored by Cuban culture.”

Toth travelled to Cuba years ago and found a rich and unique culture that manifested itself in the country’s art. Unfortunately, Cuban art and culture has been isolated from the rest of the world since President John F. Kennedy signed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1962 (Proclamation 3447) following Cuba signing a trade agreement with the Soviet Union. Since then, traveling to and from Cuba has been notoriously difficult, limiting American exposure to Cuban art but also to Cuban exposure to American art and art from around the world.

But over the last year, trade relations with Cuba have thawed. Though to fully end the embargo requires Congress to make the final decision, traveling to Cuba has become easier. For some 50 years Cuba has been geographically close to the United States but nigh impossible to get to. That notion has only fueled American fascination with Cuban culture.

Because of limited exposure to the world, Cuban culture has an immensely strong identity. That identity manifests strongly in Cuban artists’ work. It is that national identity that gripped Toth when he first traveled to the country.

 “Everything is decidedly Cuban – the food, sights, sounds, and art,” says Toth. “They all weave together to create a truly striking, captivating place.”

To both satiate American interest in Cuban art and expose Cuban art to an audience outside Cuba, Toth curated “Bryant Toth Fine Art – Cuban Art Exhibition” that held its opening at the Chelsea Hotel on June 25. The exhibition features portraits from some of Toth’s favorite Cuban artists: the expressionism-influenced painter Eduardo “Exposito” Gonzalez, the 27 year old draftsman Juan Carlos Vazquez Lima, Cuban culture celebrating artist Hector Frank, and San Alejandro Fine Art Academy-trained artist Ignacio Merida.

Toth and I corresponded over email to discuss his love of Cuban art and why he had to curate this exhibition.

Forbes: What does the lessening of trade restrictions between Cuba and the United States ultimately mean for Cuban artists?

Bryant Toth: One of the main changes that will transpire will be the increase of exposure via the influx of tourism by both US citizens as well as the rest of the world. The announcement has shed new light on Cuban art and peaked the curiosity of the rest of the world.

Also, Cuban artists will gain better access to materials like paints, brushes, and canvases. Perhaps even more importantly, Cuban artists will gain access to information: inspiration from other artists, mediums of work, and standard business tactics.

Forbes: What was it like for you being able to give these artists a place to show their work outside Cuba?

Bryant Toth: It’s been such a wonderful experience getting to know these artists. From working with them in their studios, to cooking dinner with their families, to sharing their stories; they’re all talented and it’s a shame that their art works have been kept from the rest of the world. But ultimately my goal is to get these artists themselves in New York City so they can show their own work and tell their own stories.

Forbes: There has always been an American cultural interest in Cuba: the food, Buena Vista Social Club, cinematic portrayals of Che and Fidel, etc. Do you think this might be because the country is so geographically close, but so metaphorically far away?

Bryant Toth: Proximity is a factor but also people are interested in visiting a county preserved in time. Cuba has always had very strong creative roots in music, food, art, and literature and these roots have caught the world’s attention.

With that said, the nation’s isolation from many of its neighbors has fueled Cubans’ desires to develop strong self-identities that then manifest in the art.

Forbes: Social unrest often begets great creativity; did art flourish or flounder under the rule of Castro?

Bryant Toth: As mentioned above, the isolation has fueled creativity and a Cuban self-identity. But social unrest permits limited exposure for inspiration: books, materials, and exposure to creative minds outside of Cuba.

The Cuban government allows certain individuals more artistic opportunities as unofficial “ambassadors” of the country; Cuba has always been proud of its history in creative arts.

Forbes: How did this particular exhibit come into fruition?

Bryant Toth: I decided to do a group show for this exhibition. It was important to showcase different artists with different styles, approaches, and outlooks. But all the artists use portraiture as the common theme. My goal was to showcase a large selection of pieces by different artists and expose New York to a piece of Havana.

Everything in the exhibit was intended to be authentically Cuban: the aesthetic of the space (layers and layers of plaster/paint on the ceiling), a 5-piece Cuban band, signature Cuban cocktails made with rum distilled in the traditional style, sun flowers, and of course, the art. I wanted it to be more than a traditional art opening, which I think we accomplished.

Forbes: Where is Cuba in terms of gender equality? I couldn’t help but notice that the entire roster consists of male artists. Is it difficult to find women artists in Cuba, and are there social or cultural explanations for this?

Bryant Toth: My focus was to cultivate these specific relationships but have met some female Cuban Artists and hopefully will have the opportunity to work with some in the future.

Forbes: So many of the images from the show depict the human form, is it safe to say that Cuban art is fascinated with people over anything else?

Bryant Toth: Human form and portraits were the general themes of the show, but it’s safe to say that depicting the human form is one of the most common and fascinating subjects in Cuban art and art from around the world. Personally, I find it to be the most dynamic.

ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST: Hector Frank Feature

Designer Ashley Darryl put a modern spin on her friend Jeremy Globerson’s one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan by using clean-lined furnishings and carefully selected accents. “We chose a mixture of vintage and new pieces to help us create the minimal and inviting space we were after,” says Darryl. Sconces by Apparatus and a painting by Hector Frank are displayed above the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofa in the living room.

Source: http://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/h...

STEADFAST ARTE: AN INTERVIEW WITH BRYANT TOTH

AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINA ARZA

PHOTOS BY BRETT KINCAID

Bryant Toth is an art collector and gallerist based in New York City. His gallery and pop-up art shows center on shedding a much-needed light onto Cuban contemporary art. Since his first trip to Havana back in 2008, he has become a leading figure in bringing Cuban artists into the international arena, motivated by his fascination with Cuban culture, the paradox of the nation’s isolation, and its artists’ reflections of its ever-evolving self-identity.

CHRISTINA ARZA Can you describe BT one of your first trips to Cuba?

BRYANT TOTH First and foremost, I am passionate about people and cultures. As an avid traveler, it has always been important for me to see the true colors and emotions for each destination. I was introduced to Havana back in 2008 by my hospitality mentor, Sam DuVall— restaurateur, art enthusiast and genuine connoisseur of the world. The first moment I disembarked on Cuban soil, I quickly identified a real, thriving and addictive creative culture. Everything was honest from the art, music, culture, and community - Bryant Toth Fine Art was created from an appreciation of Cuba, its culture and creative talents. It provides a platform to celebrate, promote, and exhibit the powerful story of Cuba’s artistic community.

CA You solely represent Cuban artists. Why?

BT While there are many famous Cuban and Cuban American artists, there are many remarkable artist’s unknown to the rest of the world. e drastic isolation of Cuba has fueled this intense creative self-identity and something truly Cuban. But, the past social unrest has limited their exposure to markets around the world. I took it upon myself to focus on these underrepresented artists, offering them an opportunity to promote and tell their own stories. Initially focusing solely on Cuban artists while also focusing on areas of growth, education and cultural exchange.

CA I admire your love for the culture, people and artists of Cuba. It takes patience & appreciation to represent artists. What has been most rewarding in this journey as of yet?

BT Thee most rewarding part of this journey has been closely working with these artists—both in terms of representation but also the powerful relationships, which have developed. rough, exchanging knowledge and guidance, this journey has been rewarding every step of the way. While exposing Hector Frank’s work to new markets is the goal, inviting him to celebrate his work in person has truly been powerful.

CA What has been an obstacle in your pursuit?

BT While there are many obstacles in any pursuit, the main obstacle with working with Cuba are basic logistics. e limitation of resources such as materials, internet, cell, and transportation have proved di cult but not one we haven’t been able to solve through countless trip of personal interaction and hand carrying materials, supplies and paintings to and from Cuba.

CA Talk about your pop-up events—versus a traditional gallery space.

BT As I have previously stated - I am not only committed to introducing under-represented Cuban artists to new markets, but also to challenge the gallery-based model that currently dominates the art world. rough experience focused exhibitions and collaborations, my goal is to create emotional connections through each of my shows—First and foremost around the art, but accompanied by music, design, aesthetic, and community.

Pop-up exhibitions allow me to create a unique experience each time as well as target a vast array of different markets. While New York is a primary focus, the concept allows us to exhibit work in many cities around the world— projective markets are: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Aspen, Mexico City, Berlin, and Shanghai.

CA Where do you see Bryant Toth Fine Art in 10 years?

BT I’d love to continue hosting exhibitions in sophisticated and diverse cities around the world, while always focusing on positive change in Cuba. e opportunity to have these artists present during each exhibition and collaborating with different markets and cultures is a main focus. Every year is dynamic and I truly look forward to the future. 

STEADFAST ARTE: AN INTERVIEW WITH HECTOR FRANK

AN INTERVIEW WITH GABRIELLA OWENS

PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRETT KINCAID

Hector Frank was born in Havana in 1961 where he trained as an electrical engineer. Quitting this work to pursue art, Frank has since become an internationally- recognized contemporary artist. Renowned for his creativity of form and for his ability to depict the influences, colors, and textures of Cuban life, Frank’s mixed-media paintings offer a window into the diversity and vibrancy of the Cuban experience. 

GABRIELLA OWENS The concept behind a self-taught artist is one of intriguing nature; what was your personal experience developing your creative process and your choice of mediums? 

HECTOR FRANK It was like being born again. Everything was new and I began nding ways to translate my ideas on a canvas or through other supportive mediums. It was very di cult but also a very interesting process as I began to discover things unknown in myself. 

GO Your work has a sense of varying consistency. The focus upon the portrait remains the same, yet the substance within each piece seems to change. What inspires the consistency? What inspires the variety? 

HF What inspires me are human beings - with all of the forces and emotions that we bring in and not always externalize, but at the same time we betray our behavior. en I think of my characters (portraits) in a very particular way to catch certain feelings and visions that are these that characterize us and make us communicate without reasonable words.

GO How does your Cuban heritage inspire and influence your work? 

HF My Cuban heritage is the product of two strong cultures such as Spanish and African. I have a lot of both and my work can be re ected either by the colors, expressions, forms. It is impossible to escape this in uence. 

GO With the new political developments between Cuba and the United States, do you foresee this making a drastic impact upon your work? 

HF This has not had any dramatic impact on my work so far. (I think drastic is a very strong word to talk about the opening of relations that is still in its infancy) But it has given me the opportunity to present my work in some parts of the US and meet and exchange with artists who live there. I met Bryant before this process and we will have been together for a long time. He is a human being who deeply loves art and more importantly is an excellent person and a good friend. 

GO What is your voice? What do you want your audience to walk away with from your work? 

HF is is a paradox of trying to get closer to the human as today increasingly moves away. e great triumphs of humanity have been when we’ve been all together. However, more and more, our interactions are being reduced. We are the center of our civilization but when developments grow, we communicate less and I want this to reach the audience especially when I do these characters with headsets and distant faces. 

GO Can you use three adjectives to describe yourself as an artist and why? 

HF Well... I think I am persevering, hardworking and sincere in my work. Without these qualities, it would not have been possible to achieve what I have achieved until now, especially considering what I had to learn on my own.

GO Can you describe what the expression artistic freedom means to you? 

HF It is the possibility to express how you want. It is very important for any artist. 

GO What does the word steadfast mean to you? 

HF I think it must be a requirement in this profession. Naturally, it accompanies me in everything I set my mind in life.  

DEPARTURES MAGAZINE: Encouraging The Cuban Art Scene

Written by: Noora Raj

We sat down with patron-to-the-Cuban-arts Bryant Toth to talk emerging artists and the difficulties of building an international presence.

At the front of artist Hector Frank’s gallery is a prominent window where passersby stop and examine his bright acrylic canvases from an atmospheric street in Havana, Cuba. It’s an open door policy; step in and someone will offer you a swig of Havana Club seven-year rum as Frank glides easily from artist to gallerist to publicist, hobnobbing with old and new friends. He's obviously at home here and there is a reason for that: he, his wife, and extended family all live right downstairs.

House-cum-galleries like Frank's are frequent stops for early-adopting travelers looking to witness an authentic piece of the country's burgeoning art market, which has piqued global interest as trade relations between U.S. and Cuba improve. Unlike the city's official arts and crafts center, Almacenes San José, a bustling nexus of commerce by the pier, the focus at these DIY gallery spaces is intimacy, conversation, and yes, rum. With June's Havana Biennial already passed, the interaction between artist and buyer is inherently less transactional than in other international art capitals—it’s de rigueur for artists to invite tourists into their homes and ask where they are from, without the subtext of a potential sale.

In stark contrast, Almacenes San José is a pocket of capitalist influence. A quick scan of the works available there is like a stroll through art's greatest hits of the past few centuries, performed by cover bands. Picasso’s Three Musicians is available in any canvas size you could want.

“Ninety percent of the art in the market are fakes,” says Bryant Toth, meaning that the pieces are either homages to Guevara or Castro or attempts to replicate the famous styles of Picasso, Wilfredo Lam, or Fernando Botero. Toth is a New York–based art dealer who specializes in Cuban art. But there are exceptions of course, like Juan Carlos Vazquez Lima, whom Toth met in the market on one of his first trips to Cuba. Unlike the surfeit of canvases at other stalls, Lima had four pieces on display that day, each depicting a whimsical stick figure with multiple pupils, a leitmotif in Lima's work. Toth bought them all.

Toth has been championing Cuban art for years, acquiring art and befriending local artists on his visits. The first piece he ever bought was from Hector Frank: a portrait made of acrylic paint and collage on canvas. Art has always been a legal Cuban export, and at the bequest of friends and business contacts, Toth started curating pieces for their collections as well. Now, his company, Bryant Toth Fine Art, has a roster of artists in Cuba, a database of private clients in the U.S., and an Instagram account that regularly helps link the two (@bryants_cuba).

For many prospective buyers, Cuban artists tend to be condensed into two categories: The well-known heavyweights, which include performance artist Tania Bruguera and Carlos Garaicoa, whose work has been shown at the Guggenheim, and the emerging. Though artists of Cuban descent are better represented in Miami, only a handful of major New York and Los Angeles galleries are currently invested in the contemporary Cuban art market, most notably Magnan Metz and Sean Kelly—the latter represents Los Carpinteros, an art collective that commands hefty prices from international buyers. In 2016, the Bronx Museum will show a selection of works from the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Cuba in the institutions' first art swap.

THE COVETEUR: THIS ART COLLECTOR'S HOME IS A TRAVELER'S PARADISE

By: Alicia Cesaro

Photography: Leslie Kirchhoff

Bryant Toth is single-handedly bringing Cuban art to the rest of the world.

For most (Americans), Cuba is a bucket-list destination; one they hope to visit before hordes of tourists arrive and ruin everything. For others, (pretty much every other nationality), it’s a place they’ve visited for years, taking in its unspoiled beaches, culture, and of course, cigars. For artist Bryant Toth, though, it’s a place he’s been lucky enough to both live and visit over the last seven years. The Californian-turned-New Yorker’s itch to travel to the island was influenced by his parents’ and mentors’ twenty years of experiences there. After only his first trip he became enthralled by the city of Havana and its abundance of unseen artists—and shortly thereafter his eponymous gallery, Bryant Toth Fine Art, was founded. His goal? To merge and saturate the American art world with that of Cuba. Specifically, the under-represented contemporary Cuban artists whom he has worked with and mentored.

Toth’s previous role in membership at Soho House allowed him to make the rounds in various cities, only proving his theory that the hotel industry can seemlessly bleed into music, fashion, film and of course, art. Ahead of his latest exhibition on November 3rd, Hector Frank’s Bridge to Cuba, we stopped by Toth’s Chinatown apartment to get a private tour and chat about the stories behind the artifacts—Cuban and otherwise—collected from his travels, why hospitality will always run through his veins, and what it’s like falling in love with America’s southern neighbors.

The Huffington Post: Cubas hottest new export may not be what you think

Written by: Michael Tommasiello

While Cuba may be known for its retro lifestyle, cigars and rum, throughout the years Bryant Toth has come to know it for something different. Bryant is almost single handily been responsible for bringing Cuban art and artists stateside, with his latest exhibition being aptly named Bridge To Cuba. Resulting from 12 trips to Cuba and a career curating membership at Soho House New York and Soho House Miami Beach, Toth was able to do what few people before him had been capable of, and that was to not only bring art from a place that was relatively untouched by American hands and create a market for it in the US.

Toth's latest exhibition features renown artist Hector Frank, who was born in Havana, Cuba in 1961 and currently still resides there. Having already been featured the New York Times, Forbes, Surface, and Departures, Frank continues his already successful career with this exhibition in Chelsea. Working with mixed mediums, Frank’s work comes to life by mixing textures and collages to bring the images to life. Toth and Frank were joined by many prominent faces in the art and fashion world at the opening that included the likes of Kinetics & One Love, Heron Preston, TK Wonder and Cipriana Quann, Fredrik Eklund, John Targon, Connor Franta, Lo Bosworth, Julia Loomis, Tyler Rowe, Ashley Wilcox Platt, Lexi Wood, Amalie Gassmann, Janica Compte, Nathaniel Dam, Amilna Estevao, Irina Shnitman, Manuela Frey, Oda Marie Nordengen, Anja Voskresenska Sanna Backstrom, Aku Orraca-Tetteh, Lucy Baaman, Kelly Connor, Grace Givens, Emma Morrison, Cyril Foiret and many more. The gallery remains open through Nov 10th and is located at Gallery 151 - 132 W 18th. St.

MANHATTAN DIGEST: Hector Frank’s Portraits: Celebrating Cuba, Celebrating People

Written By: Jessica Klein

Hector Frank’s portraits are as colorful as the Havana you can see when searching Google images. Presumably, they embody the spirit of Hector’s real Havana (to which I’ve never traveled), the vibrant but politically tumultuous city he grew up in.

“The color is natural in me,” Hector explained when I spoke to him a week after his opening at the Bryant Toth Fine Art show at Gallery 151 in Chelsea. Part of an exhibition that stemmed from the American Bryant’s love for Cuba and Cuban artists, whose work has been so difficult to traverse US borders for so long, Hector’s work reveals a compassion for the people of his country and their indomitable collective spirit, one that he certainly shares.

As an artist in Cuba during Communist party rule, Hector faced many problems. “You don’t have materials, you don’t have many other things,” he said.* “But it’s okay for your brain. You need problems for your brain to keep working, for inspiration. And my country has many, many problems. The people are happy…but they have nothing. There is never a complete solution for your problem, never. But for me the best is just going through and following your own path.”

Born in 1961 in Havana, Hector followed his path when he left his electrical engineering career to become a full-time artist. He at once seems to take the craft very seriously and with extreme lightness.

The lightness shows through his lack of self-critique. When asked if he has a favorite work in the Bryant Toth show, Hector replied, “All my favorite.” He starts creating one portrait, and when it gains the “energy” he desires, he’s finished. Maybe it’s the language barrier between us (Hector speaks Spanish better than English), but this strikes me as a less than heavy approach to artistic creation.

 

The seriousness comes through in his clear dedication. “I put my heart in this, and my time, and my brain. Look at this,” Hector held out his dry, possibly paint-covered (or maybe just very dry) hands. “This is my brain…my idea, my composition when finished comes out in this, my broken skin.” He described fighting an internal battle with himself as he creates each new piece of art “alone in my studio in the middle of the night…[I] work all night long, it is fantastico. No wife, no children, nothing…”

His portraits clearly look like they’ve been labored over, with love. Besides the bright, hectic but cohesive color palettes and the aspects of collage, Hector’s signature lies in his simplicity. He depicts faces with a few, judicious lines, some more defined than others, where a few drips of paint manifest a nose. The eyes are bright, the expressions varied. Several of his subjects (“no specific people”) wear headphones. Hector sees this as a commentary on information control, that people increasingly rely on media constantly fed through personal aural devices, and on personal isolation.

“Ten more years, and you’ll have a chip inside,” he tapped the side of his head. “People are very important for me, and in this life, people take more distance.” He noted that a common goal, once a person acquires capital, is to move away from others and create more and more space between themselves and their fellow humans, and this distance creates more problems. This is why people wear headphones, he said, “so people get away.”

While Hector uses painting as an opportunity to get away, spending long hours by himself in his studio, it is clearly in celebration of people, the joyous ones that he paints, collages, and even cuts out of wood. His dedication translates to his advice for aspiring artists. “Cuando vas a pintar como artista, tu no peudes pensar que nada mas [When you go to paint like an artist, you cannot think about anything else]. Not on money, not on nothing, only your work,” he said. “Yo quiero pintar porque necessito pintar [I want to paint because I need to paint]. If you spend a lot of time in your studio, you are going to be an artist…most important, be sincere. Don’t paint for others—paint for yourself and it will be for everyone.”

After our interview, Bryant, who had shown up midway through, went across the room and with a flourish, placed a little, red circle sticker on one of the painting’s placards to show Hector it had been sold. The latter leaned in and told me it was to go to one of the actors in “Game of Thrones.” He then went over to Bryant (who is tall and skinny), picked him up, and spun him around on his shoulders.

Before I left, Hector insisted I visit Cuba because everyone there is friendly and there are wonderful museums and art. He has two sons, one of whom is an artist, and they both speak English “very well.”

For more information about Bryant Toth Fine Art and Hector Frank, visit this website.