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René Peña (Cuba)

Untitled Album

René Peña (Cuba), Cabeza Blanca, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.


With my photographs I do not intend to explain anything about myself. They are not self-portraits. I use my body as a backdrop for my reflections on society.

I am not interested in specific individuals. No one should think of oneself as so important as to be the center of something. Such attitudes can create certain kinds of monsters. I do not want to settle accounts with individuals but with society in general.

In my photographs, I try to avoid sentimental and dramatic gestures that would lead to some type of personal relationship with the observer.

The central issue of my photographic series is the relationship that is established between individuals and institutions — family, education, political parties, and religion. I pay attention to the contradictions that are created when we try to preserve our individuality at the same time as we are dealing with ourselves as social entities.

I think of photography as a blunt tool — at times in favor of just causes, at other times lying, and almost always, the purveyor of nostalgia.

René Peña


A self-taught Cuban photographer, René Peña earned his degree in English at the Instituto Superior Pedagógico de Lenguas Extranjeras (ISPLE) in Havana in 1978. He joined the Cuban artistic world at the end of the 1980s and the new trends in Cuban photography in the early 1990s. First dealing with interiors and domestic situations in Cuba, he later went deeper into themes like negritude, sexual ambiguity, and the influence of consumerism and the market through self-portraits.

René Peña developed his series through a conceptual and formal analysis, which is structurally different from most pre-established parameters, going from a brutal expressionism to a marked homoeroticism; in his work, he has included strong mystic elements and a certain theatrical treatment of the staging of his images.

René Peña has taken part in many exhibitions, individual, collective, and art fairs, inside and outside of Cuba, and his pictures are part of numerous permanent collections, private and public. With his work he has won a number of prizes and special recognition: among them are first prize at the IV Biennial of the Caribbean, Santo Domingo (2000) and the Distinción por la Cultura Cubana given by the Consejo Nacional de las Artes Plasticas y el Ministerio de Cultura de Cuba (2002).


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