While the restlessness lasts
Inti Hernández, It rained, yet we have time, Human Needs series, 2018
Art OnCuba Magazine https://artoncuba.com/blog-es/conversando-con-inti-i/
While Inti was peeling Dutch potatoes to make a Spanish omelet for her daughter, I lessened the cold with a cup of hot coffee. We talked about his professional career, the scenarios, circumstances and fields of action around it.
1- Discussing the beginnings is always an interesting anecdotal resource. When did Inti Hernández become interested in the art world?
From a very young age I preferred a plasticine ball to bat and the ball of our national sport. I always had a good time doing something with my hands and it didn’t take long for me to realize that what I was doing attracted the attention of others as well. Once I was eleven years old, my mother took me to do the recruitment tests for the Olga Alonso elementary school of art in Santa Clara and from my enrollment in that institution to date, everything I have done (and will do) is related to the world of visual arts.
2- You begin to develop your career as a visual artist in the context of a “different” and no less controversial generation (the 90s) within the development of the Cuban art scene. Do you feel that being part of or coinciding with / with said generation formally – conceptually influences your work?
I don’t know if we can say that I am part of the 90’s generation. Los Carpinteros, Carlos Garaicoa, Esterio Segura and Sandra Ramos were already (although very young) established artists. I had just started at the Higher Institute of Art when that generation was already traveling the world. Let us remember that we started at the ISA in 1995, and that it was not until the VII Biennial of Havana with the DUPP Gallery and its UNESCO Prize for the Arts in 2000, that the work we had been doing collectively and individually began to be appreciated by the general public and studied in circles with notice in art.
When we analyze the precepts that somehow unify the values defended by the generation of the 90s in Cuba, I can see that that’s where I come from: the taste for good manners, the use of materials and techniques established in the history of art and thinking the work, although intelligent and sophisticated, also as an authentic and mercantile firm. But when I follow the development of my work from Galería DUPP to date, I notice that there is something different that questions the very nature of the work.
In pieces like Descenso (my work for the DUPP project entitled La Época); where the public is an indissoluble part of the work and somehow completes it or when we see that in the work Encuentros (ice cubes) (the work of the ice cubes of the ‘friend’ and the ‘enemy’) we cannot define what is the work: if it is the ice cubes that shape the ice cubes or it is the act of sharing them in the drinks of a “public”, which is not necessarily there to consume art, we see that art as a result plays to expand the notion of authorship and with it also the nature and role played by the receiver when it comes to consuming and unraveling the work.
This, in my modest understanding, is not what comes to mind when we think of the ‘90s generation’, but I do not know to what other movement of contemporary Cuban arts we could make what I do belong. Perhaps it is simply not relevant to pigeonhole it at a time or a space. In this way it can continue to be transparent in its development and making us believe that as long as the ‘restlessness’ lasts and the desire is full and honest to satisfy it, it is that I do something that belongs to the ‘here’ and the ‘now’.
3- Between 2005-2006 you obtained a scholarship to study in the Netherlands from the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten / Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences. Tell us about that experience.
The Rijksakademie, although it speaks of ‘academies’ in its title is not a school, it is a residency program for young international artists based in Amsterdam. It was a luxury to be among the select group of lucky people and to have the unconditional support of that institution and its sponsors. Thus I was able to concentrate my strength and continue developing my work for a period of two years. Although with a too monasterial tone for my taste, this institution was the open door that allowed me to enter the world of art in Holland and make known what I do in the country where I live most of the year.
4- Your personal / professional life unfolds between two countries: Holland and Cuba. Both scenarios influence the realization of artistic projects from different perspectives. How do you handle this situation from a creative, executive, commercial and promotional point of view?
There are many things in this question. Let me just mention that from my “dual nationality” I try to learn and apprehend the best. Holland has given me the logical and practical training to understand how many stars have to align so that we can go from an initial idea to a result. The Netherlands is the context of ‘the agenda’ and of respect for it, not only their own but also that of others. Cuba is the context of improvisation, it is the context that is in my life to remind me that I am here and now and that life is good because it is curious and because it is always open and ready to adapt to whatever has to happen.
5- There is in your work a subtle suggestion about the collective memory, the permanence, the ambiguity of the object depending on its circumstances, the same object that represents ways of life and behaviors. You subtract elements (tangible and intangible) that make up the Cuban identity and articulate them in space with a personal discourse, but with a collective impact. How do you describe the process in which you begin to conceive a project, from the beginning to the end?
Everything is organized in relation to the ‘common sense of things’. My works do not demand from a public advised in art, it only has to be sensitive and willing. To fully respond to these premises, the process of making the work selects the medium, the context, the scale and the materials in such a way that the vision that inspires it is embodied in a result that has been designed based on communication. and if possible the dialogue with the other. I have always believed that if an idea becomes a ‘conversation’ we are in the presence of something that is already undeniable (to quote Jorge Luis Borges): “undeniable like stones and trees”.
6- As part of the material resources that you use to create the pieces, wood predominates, which I dare to mention that you master perfectly. Do you have a specific reason why you repeatedly select such material?
Wood is a noble material. Through time it has accompanied the human being and has allowed with its sustainable insistence and its versatility that it is discovering its potential and expressing the vision that shapes and inspires it. It was wood that witnessed the passage to the Bronze Age and has been with us from the beginning of the industrial revolution to the present day. It is also wood that accompanies us at home, in the most intimate contexts. That endearing, every day, organic, almost intimate condition helps me to confirm the tone that I have always wanted in the work I do. A work that, although sometimes it turns its gaze to the drama of life, does so from a tenderness and the fundamental desire to achieve a pact.
7- Your work acquires, in some projects, a multifunctional and interdisciplinary character. It can be implemented / exhibited the same in closed spaces as in open or public spaces such as squares, parks, walks and avenues; and in its execution you link aspects related to science such as mechanics, mathematics, physics. The Meeting Places project exemplifies the above statement. How do you relate artistic and scientific aspects in the search and establishment of a space for communication between individuals?
A work interested in visiting and activating extra-artistic contexts is a work that must always be open to other knowledge. When you want to build an Outdoor Classroom, you have to open doors to other disciplines such as architecture, engineering and knowledge of the construction materials industry. I am following ‘the vision’ and if it is demanding knowledge that I do not have in order to complete it, I have nothing left but to launch the invitation to join friends and people with the necessary knowledge. This is how artistic aspects are related to other extra-artistic ones. All based on a work as a space for communication and dialogue between people.
8- Your professional career is inserted within a set of platforms that promote the development of contemporary art, such as fairs, biennials, competitions, among others. How important is these events for the circulation / promotion of an artist’s work?
“To exist is to be perceived.” This I heard him say many times about my dear friend and always professor René Francisco. Any promotion and dissemination channel that is offered or available must be an explored channel. Life is still a surprise and we never know where the hare will jump. That is why you have to collaborate with everything that in some way has managed to prove that it is correct and that to be it does not make irresponsible abuse of power in others. If we see that this premise is guaranteed then we must do as our José Martí used to say: “To be art among the arts and in the mountains, to be mountains.”
9- The “Cotidiana” exhibition was recently inaugurated at Galerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam. When and how did the idea of holding this show come about? Why the title “Everyday”?
The word ‘everyday’ speaks of something that insists on time, something that becomes a ritual that accompanies us daily. But it is not something routine and by far it does not have to be something repetitive or boring. There is something homely and intimate in that word and also fundamental and powerful that has always drawn me. Now, that almost tender tone is the best mediator to talk about unresolved things that insist, about things that are not here to do good and that have to be changed from the knowledge and conviction of those who live and suffer them. For example, the lack of balance between collective interests and individual interests, present in the series of works, Balance Cubano or the notion of inequality in our societies, present in the video installation At the head of the table people sit, they form part of the drama that this exhibition tries to illustrate; where these and other issues of today’s societies are addressed with works fundamentally resolved in wood and that jointly propose to recreate the environment of a home, of that intimate context that is here to remind us how close all these issues are pending review , of solution or improvement.
Amsterdam, January, 2018
A conversation with Aimée Joaristi about ESCINDIDA
Aimée Joaristi, Impertinente, 2017
Art OnCuba Magazine https://artoncuba.com/blog-es/una-conversacion-con-aimee-joaristi/
1- Who is Aimée Joaristi and how do you link who you are with what represents you as an architect, designer and artist?
The link always is and has been art, in any of its manifestations. In the same way, I link with you in your role as critic and curator. I am an artist, although I hate the word (because it feels pretentious), from the day I opened my eyes and was able to measure the light. My life has always revolved around an act of creation, without the need to name or conceptualize it. I am an impulsive, passionate, visceral woman and those traits are expressed in my two facets (which are no longer two, there are many others, although people know more about these than you mention well). My work as an architect and designer is not incompatible with my painting, although I must confess that I am happier through painting. Both areas touch and dialogue constantly. Regarding this, I remember that when the curator and critic Andrés Isaac Santana visited my house in Costa Rica, he looked at me and said “I am beginning to understand your painting better”. That made me very funny because few realize that relationship and he, the first time, understood that link.
2- Spontaneity and the scream appear in your performances; as if butterflies were born from the belly and turned your gaze into abstract passion. Explore art or the art you explore?
Explorer is the one who lives, walks, breathes and feels consciously. I try to express myself in the simplest way that was given to me, others write or compose, I paint. I live through pictorial matter and I feel well-being in this exercise of doing that, many times, causes me uneasiness and a certain anguish. The canvas is a vertigo in itself, it is a complex psychological state that is sometimes difficult to overcome with good fortune. It is always a space that puts you to the test.
3- In one of your texts you write: “Taking up themes is a constant in the creative process of a visual artist.” How does Aimée dialogue with perseverance in her creative process?
The topics are directly related to personal experiences and usually one visits them more than once. Painting I relive all of the above, but on an even more existential level: painting –in its daily constancy- is for me a kind of therapy. At times I feel asphyxiated and it is because I discover I need to go to the studio and start working on my paintings. In fact, right now, I have changed my house and I discover, by surprise, that there is a direct relationship between the work and my living space. This gives me a state of complacency and well-being.
4- The last year you made several exhibitions (Oxygen, Fragmented Cities, Jorge Jurado Art Studio, Bogotá, Colombia, Cathedrals, Costa Rica), and you were invited to participate in fairs and biennials (V Biennial of Guayaquil, Ecuador). Do you promote your work through direct representation with galleries (which ones), curators (who), or do you directly choose the projects / agents with which you wish to collaborate and then establish the connections?
Above all, I am a restless and curious entity that moves looking for what I have considered my best options to reach a point that always escapes. That is what it is about, life is a constant search and learning exercise. Zero point does not exist, not for me. I need to move, reinvent myself, look for new looks and contrast my work according to media and with what professionals. After a few years working with a curator, I decided to change my course to focus on fewer, specific and projected options, such as the next personal exhibition in Havana and another in November in Berlin.
I work in Costa Rica with Klaus Steinmetz Contemporary and I receive the masterful support of the curator and art critic Andres Isaac Santana, with whom I started last year with the show Catedrales at the Klaus Steinmetz Gallery. I am open to choosing my future steps with close attention to detail and looking forward. I have a very timely dialogue with Andrés Isaac, he knows how to guide my work, choose spaces and above all think about projects that – really – position my work. It is certainly very severe – they had already told me (laughs) – but for that reason, precisely, there is no room for error with it. I feel fortunate in this dialogue because it represents growth for both of us. We mentioned these projects, but a surprise that he is coordinating is also in the pipeline and has to do with an ambitious editorial project. I can only tell you so far.
5- Soon, on May 26, you will have an exhibition in Havana, Cuba, curated by the Cuban curator and critic, resident in Madrid, Andrés Isaac Santana. I would like to go into detail about the exhibition: How is the exhibition titled? When and where did the idea for this project come from? Where will it take place and who are those involved in it? What concept, idea or theme will be exposed? Special guests?
As Cuban that I am by birth and by heart, I promised myself to return to my native country with an exhibition that would root me in what was my soil (still being). Somehow I needed to do a project on the island that would serve as a psalm for my soul, a kind of reconciliation. That is why this exhibition, for me, is a declared act of peace and forgiveness.
The idea arose, precisely, in Costa Rica, just after the inauguration of the Cathedrals exhibition. So Andrés and I would have a glass of wine on the terrace of the house, reviewing the work done. In that wandering through what had just been done, we looked at the horizon line and Andrés looks at me and says “to think that we are so close to Cuba and at the same time so far. She got excited, we looked at each other and we both finished with tears in our eyes. It was a very special moment. Then, passionate that we are both, we got down to work to make that moment of nostalgia and remoteness a real event.
The search for suitable sites began, calling people who could facilitate this idea and writing thousands of emails. This is how we got to know Gorría Gallery / Workshop, it seemed to us an excellent option due to the compatibility of ideas and in addition to its exhibitions with artists that I admire and respect very much. Everything began to take shape. We spoke with Daniel G. Alfonso, an excellent curator and a very serious and competent young critic. In fact, he felt a certain admiration for Andrés and for the career that he had managed to develop outside of Cuba overcoming a thousand adversities, and everything began to roll.
Then, in Madrid, we had the tremendous luck to meet Adán Perugorría, a truly charming and magnetic boy. Then we close the project. If you look at it, it has been a project that is -at the same time- a metaphor for our lives: the fact that it was born in Costa Rica, that I will telepathically pass through Havana and take shape in a restaurant in Madrid, warns of this nomadic character that draws the life of all Cubans. I feel very grateful for this, for how everything has happened, for the work of Adán and Daniel, for Andrés’ curatorship, who is – above all – a beast of interpretation and risk. The exhibition is titled ESCINDIDA, I think telling you this is already a statement in itself. It is not necessary, I am afraid, to aim more. The only thing left to do is visit the exhibition and enjoy it …
Costa Rica, May, 2017
Clara Morera, as a very free artist who faces everything
Clara Morera, The Holy Bird, 2010
Art OnCuba Magazine https://artoncuba.com/blog-es/clara-morera/
1- The Chilean writer Marcela Serrano in her novel Antigua vida mía, has written a phrase that identifies me from the first moment I read it: "A woman is the story of her actions and thoughts." Is the story of Clara Morera the same as that of her actions and thoughts?
Yes, for better or for worse it is the same story. I don’t think I would like to change it.
2- I stop before your piece Put your hand here, Macorina… First I smile and then I ask to myself: Holy women or holy women in your work?
The Macorinas are three, it was a very personal series that served as an exorcism against recurring situations in my career, destructive I could say. The only holy woman there was me because I was strong. The Macorinas were an egbo, a cleansing and a reaffirmation of myself. Laughter was also part of that exorcism. The Macorinas have a great history. They are now in the Shelley and Donald Rubin collection. That was also part of the exorcism. That series made me happy.
3- The expression of the gesture, the sense of humor, the attitude of the verb through the represented bodies, as well as the costumes and signs used in most of your works suggest a visual representation of the iconography of the Afro-Caribbean religion. Why the selection of this theme? Do you always include these symbols in your work?
No, not always. The Macorinas, for example, do not use symbols of Afro-Antillean religions. The influence of black culture imagery, as it is called, grew out of a very interesting movement of the seventies and eighties, where a number of artists, musicians, dancers and writers of my generation began to rediscover what until then was considered folklore, saving Lam and some others who had gone to Paris and therefore were not open to criticism. In my case the charm was in penetrating those beautiful symbols and mythologies and bringing them into a modern language. Not that I did it very deliberately, just my mind and my technique is not conventional, therefore it is almost impossible that my work has something conventional. The language and materials also broke squares and “deja vu”. The years that I worked making monumental tapestry and soft sculptures helped me to break formal barriers such as respect for a frame, for example. That’s where my banners came from. In the Afro-Cuban culture there were some flags that the slaves had managed to bring.
4- Have you ever thought about a specific topic (another) for your work and you still haven’t materialized it?
No, I am not tied to that topic. In Canada I was at a congress of The Young Painting of Canada, which was a tribute to the Anniversary of Discovery. It was called Tierra Tierra, meeting of Two Worlds, I went with a series about the conquest, nothing to do with the Antilles. I am also interested in Hindu and Tibetan mythology and have worked using those themes. I don’t save for later, if I’m interested in something, I’ll do it and that’s it.
5- Looking at the past with eyes that I borrow, it never hurts. What was good and bad for the circumstances of Cuban art made by women in Cuba in the 1970s?
Maybe it was difficult, especially for women of my generation. We were not in any way attached to the previous generation, but we were not part of the “new hope” either. Sarita Gómez brilliantly named it “The Generation of the Experiment”. That we were. It was not an experience of women in art, it was an experience of a very rebellious and analytical generation in art. On the other hand, I have never been a feminist, but neither have I been a “female”. I consider myself equal to men in what I can, if I need someone strong to help me with something, I don’t mind asking them for the favor but I don’t mind if they don’t give me their hand to get out of a car and stuff. We are different but like the same and we differ in some things. That’s fine. I do not tolerate machismo (nor “feminism”, call it feminism or vindication of sex, etc.). I was never discriminated against in Cuba for being a woman artist, however I have friends, including an art specialist, who were.
6- At times, it seems that your work screams carefree not in search of understanding but of contemplation and expression. What would you call the process of representation of the idea transformed into art?
I believe that art is not to understand. Books are to understand, perhaps movies have to be understood to enjoy them. With the visual arts as with music there is no possible understanding. I cannot understand a concert, I can experience an emotional state that hearing that music produces in me. With painting, sculpture and other visual arts it is the same, how can I understand them? I cannot understand Carmen Herrera, I can enjoy her, I can identify with her work that possibly speaks to me differently than to another person. Our perception will always be ours and not equal to any other. That is why the relationship of the work of art with the person who contemplates it is always unique.
7- How would you describe the current scene of Cuban art in New York?
Which one? The Cubans of the Island or the Cuban-Americans? There are those who insist on believing that artists differ by where they live. Some institutions and collectors had the idea that the artists who live in New York are not Cubans, but Americans. Following that same reasoning, we would say that Wifredo Lam, Cárdenas, Diago, to name a few, are French and not Cuban. Luckily for me, I have never met those kinds of people, but there are, in New York.
8- Do you have a preference for some specific spaces to exhibit and / or represent your work in NY?
El Piso Ocho was a very interesting experimental space, where, in general, the works were already part of Rubin’s private collection, but where the Cuban curators did a great curated work, inclusive, and with a broad modern sense. I like museums and universities, institutions, some private galleries and alternative spaces like Avenue B and the Bronx where there is a cultural diversity that makes group exhibitions very refreshing and surprising.
9- Tell us about your most recent exhibition.
The curator and artist Alexis Mendoza proposed an exhibition only for the Salena Gallery, Long Island University, Queens, and in March of this year we did it. The artist Bernardo Navarro helped me a lot with the selection and conservation of the work. These two artists are like the allies of Castañeda’s books, I could always count on them. The gallery is very large and very beautiful and my works seemed to have been made for those circular walls. I exhibited different techniques and formats, especially the large banners where I feel very free. I had a chat with the university students who identify a lot with the exhibition. A documentary was made of the exhibition that is going to be presented to alternative cinema in NYC.
10- How would you like to be remembered in the professional / artistic field?
As a very free artist who faces everything.
New York, April, 2017
Frank Guiller from New York. Approaches to his work.
Frank Guiller, serie Escape, 2016
Art OnCuba Magazine https://artoncuba.com/blog-es/frank-guiller-desde-nueva-york/
1- Like several artists of your generation, you are a graduate of the San Alejandro Academy of Art in Havana. What did it mean for you to have studied at said Academy?
San Alejandro was very important for my artistic training, I enrolled very young in the day course and immediately left it, then I went back to the night course until I finished the academy. San Alejandro gives you the fundamental basis for art, that is, the tools and part of the trade, the way to face a project from the beginning; it also of course greatly increases your general culture. There is four years of art history, luckily I had Alejo as a teacher who taught us all the plastic trends and movements that existed in art until the 80s. Now, I think it is important to clarify that the school does not make you an artist that is something very personal and depends above all on the personal and intellectual capacity of the individual, especially the need to express himself in plastic language. In my particular case, the academy was fundamental for my vision in art, as well as for the constant evolution until I felt that I am doing a work that pleases me. There I began to understand and assimilate much of what I have today as a visual artist.
2- Do you consider yourself a “generational” artist, influenced by the country and the stage where you studied?
Yes, of course I do consider myself a generational artist. In general it was a generation of research and experiments in art with the influence of Socialist realism that came to us from China and the USSR and other socialist countries; especially the Polish poster and the cinema. Somehow socialist realism touched us all. On the other hand, there were Western artists who also influenced us with the exhibitions in Havana from the May Hall, until the arrival of Robert Rauschenberg. Many important people in art, cinema, music, dance and literature passed through Havana, I think that revolutions in general have that force to generate an evident culture and that arises from change, we have seen it before in many others countries. It is necessary to cite the 80’s and Volume 1 with which things began to take a much more open and very contemporary path in the world language of art and opened the perspective that was previously very narrow for the artist.
3- At what point did you choose for photography? Do you have any influences, both theoretical and practical, from photographers on your work?
I initially studied engraving and photography was used as a means to document everything I did in stone or silkscreen; but it gradually escalated into my work, which at that time was only recording, drawing or painting. When I started using silkscreen more often, I needed photography (I was always drawn to it) as the basis of my work. Having studied at San Alejandro brought me very close to photography, as I took several courses.
I came to New York in 1988 and my first job was as a linear photographer for silkscreen, which gave me a lot of experience developing and enlarging. Then came digital art and I was captivated, I love using technology to achieve images. I have several influences, I really like: Sultan, Sally Mann, Irvin Penn, Slim Aarons, Ansel Adams, Dijskstra, Diane Arbus, Capa, Avedon, Cartier Bresson, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, William Eggleston and above all Saul Letier are the ones who I think they have trained me more; However, my greatest influence comes from cinema in general, specifically the cinema of the 60’s: French, Italian, Russian and German cinema. I should mention that my work as an art director in advertising has also allowed me to see very GOOD photography in a general sense and that somehow also influences you.
4- You have lived in the United States for several years, a country in which you have carried out a large part of your career as a visual artist. How has the artistic creation process been for you in a city (considered one of the metropolises of art) like New York?
Almost all my work, what I brought from Cuba in black and white has been lost and the negatives are all damaged. My creative process is less analytical and more phenomenological, since I mostly produce within what has been called street photography. New York is (in my view) the ideal place for this type of photography, since you find many “things” around you that if you had to prepare you have to have a lot of time. Obviously, in NY there are many artists and it is a very competitive scene, but that encourages you to achieve a more intense development in your work.
5- In 2010 you started the Escape-Pareidolia series, which in my opinion, has an interesting discourse on the figure, time and translation. Could you comment more on that series?
This is a complex series (2010-2013) because from the point of elaboration it is very laborious. It is an interesting series because in it I have tried to make the interaction between the human being and the environment become one in memory. It has a lot to do with my personal experience as a transcultural artist, where not only I but also most of the migrants associate the environment at some time with the past, with what resembles memory and see similar things in the new experience. although they do not have the slightest resemblance. The above is basically the phenomenon known as Pareidolia, where your mind somehow reacts to the images looking in them for the similarity with what it knows, hence the title Escape. From a technical point of view, I associate it with that constant movement of the photo out of focus and with little color or degradation, thus associating it with the non-clear but constant memory in the human being. Photography helps you to eternalize memory.
6- What features, in your experience, differ Cuban art produced in New York from Cuban art produced in Miami? Considering Miami the largest Cuban artistic focus in the United States.
Complex! There are very good artists in Miami as there are in NY. Obviously the difference exists in the visual representation, the gallery and especially the audience to whom the work is directed. In NY the above is much more open / dynamic than in Miami. The language makes artists come together based on their use, but I think that the work can be made interesting where one is. In terms of features, it seems to me that the projection is more local in Miami than in New York.
7- The use of technology in photography has become a universal resource (but still optional) for its development. To what extent do you use technology in your work and why? Some specific creation methods that you would like to comment on.
In my particular case, I was very satisfied with the use of technology. The darkroom no longer exists (which were hours working to achieve what you wanted and mixing chemicals), now I solve everything in an application I usually use Adobe Photoshop or Aperture, to achieve any effect on the image as well as the use of filters tonality degradation, shadow adjustment, and saturation. For me it is perfect to use technology and I would never change it for the previous step. The method I use the most is filtered coloring. I use filters such as cross processing that mimics the use of colored chemicals on black and white film or vice versa. I also use detail extractor when I want to extract certain details from the image or dynamic skin softener, so I am taking the image to where I think it should be finished.
8- Sometimes your work transpires a poetry that goes from the suggestive to the simply subtle and circumstantial. You could argue about the poetic device (if you agree that it exists) present in your photographs.
The vision I have is very embodied in poetry almost all the time, which I try to highlight in the visual work I do. I really like poetry, the subtlety of transporting to an image what the poetic word could say, the simplicity of the forms, the occasion of the moment, the light and its antics, the circumstantial blurring of time. It’s that basically.
9- If you had the possibility of currently exhibiting in Havana: On what discursive language (subject) would you design the exhibition?
It depends a lot on the work of the Curator of the show. Previously I have had several exhibition proposals that have not been concluded for one reason or another, but I would always carry what I do in street photography; that is, my vision of and from New York. It could be a series that describes man in his interaction with the environment, his development and his way of living in the city, how a citizen can live in that city with its advantages and disadvantages, whether he is an emigrant or a native. Or you could also use a more conceptual series where the individual sees himself within that established mechanism to be a citizen in NY.
10- Any event, project or exhibition in which you are linked in the present or will you be in the future?
Apart from a couple of local group exhibitions, this year I was accepted at the Florence Biennale with three of my works in C-Print 30 “by 40” with that theme of the city, also in November I will be at the Bronx Biennial exhibiting some four pieces in the same technique and with the same theme of the city and the man.
New York, November, 2016
Talking with Rafael Domenech
S/T, Rafael Domenech. Wood, engraving, Plexiglas’s, tornillo, screw. 2016
Art OnCuba Magazine https://artoncuba.com/blog-es/talking-with-rafael-domenech/
1- You are a young artist who has managed to capture the attention (to a large extent) of various collectors, curators, art spaces, and galleries. In past interviews you have referred to your work as "a work that begins with the act of discovery and continues to transform the perceptual experience" . What formal, conceptual and circumstantial elements promote and self-define your visual discourse?
In general, my work is the result of investigations and experiments that start from very specific moments like the reaction to a book, moment, experience or space. Form literature is integral to my creative process. I consider it to be the most creative art form there is.
Right now I don’t feel attached to a particular visual language, form or aesthetic formula. I believe that the visual language of an artist must be tied to a constant exploration of change. I seek that the ideas define and transform the form and that in turn the visual result is an organic development that evolves and becomes more complex as time progresses.
Ideas like pollution, surplus, systems, and French materialism are some of the forces that govern my most recent research.
2- Beside from suggesting sensory perceptions with your work, what other intentions or searches are established between the creation process, the completion and the public?
I am not necessarily interested in having an observer understand an idea directly, since I am not trying to illustrate a topic or make a visual puzzle. I am interested in a work that denotes a complexity of thought, that reflects the construction process from ideas to matter, and that shows a connection between the context in which it is produced and the work.
3- Last year you were one of the Cuban artists selected and / or represented by the Fredric Snitzer gallery in Miami Art Basel, one of the most important fairs for contemporary art that is held every year welcoming various galleries and visitors from different parts of the world. Will you also be participating this year in Miami Art Basel, represented by a specific gallery? What type of works will you be exhibiting?
This year I will be showing again at Art Basel with the Fredric Snitzer gallery, the space I work with in Miami. Fredric and I made a selection from a group of works composed of sculptures and collages, which represent my most recent research state.
4- The positioning of Cuban art within the contemporary market has gradually increased. Do you think Miami Art Basel influences the (re) disposition of the commercial nature that could be attributed to a work, influencing its promotion in the environment where it is developed?
Art Basel in Miami is one of the most important fairs in the United States and in the world in general. Undoubtedly, the impact of participating in a fair like this is of an extensive magnitude not only in a work itself but in an entire career. I believe that the commercial nature of a work is subject to change by factors such as: consistency and solidity in ideas and in the development of the work, the context, the whim of collectors, the momentary fetishes and clichés that are in fashion, etc.
5- How would you define the experience, perception and dialogue between the public and Cuban art in Miami Art Basel and in other spaces such as Scope and Miami Art, to name a few.
I really don’t think I am qualified to give you an accurate answer on the subject. As an artist I don’t pay much attention to what happens during fairs. I think that all these events provide a space for artists to develop and exhibit their work, although in the same way, I think it should always be borne in mind that fairs only represent the art market at the time.
6- Recently, an interview by Marilyn Payrol (art historian) with Juan Delgado Calzadilla (independent curator and creator of Cuban Art Project) was published on the Art OnCuba blog, entitled Juanito thinks un Art Basel Habana, which culminates with the following idea: “If we are capable of organizing a Havana Biennial, why won’t we be able to organize an art fair. If you had to share the stage in Havana again with other Cuban artists of your generation in an exhibition. These names would be…
That would be subject to change and extensive dialogue with other artists.
7- The year 2016 is nearing ending. What projects, exhibitions or events will be your work for next year?
This year has been intense. I have just finished two personal exhibitions, and a collective one where I had the role of curator. I am currently working on a large scale project for a public area in a new tower in Hallandale. The next year I have been invited to several group shows, mostly in the United States and I have a series of residencies where I have been invited. The Fredric Snitzer gallery will be participating in the Armory Show with the space dedicated to my work.
 Batet, Janet. In Conversation with Rafael Domenech. The artist talks about his recent show in Miami. Published at http://www.cubanartnews.org/es/news/in-conversation-rafael-domenech/4114
Miami, November, 2016
Aporias of artistic thought: An approach to the work of Rafael López Ramos
Rafael López Ramos, Aporia in Green and Red, 2015
Art OnCuba Magazine https://artoncuba.com/blog-es/entrevista-a-rafael-lopez-ramos/
1- In 2011 your work was included in the book Cuban Artists Across the Diaspora: Setting the Tent Against the House, written by Andrea O'Reilly. What does it mean for you to have been one of the artists selected to compose this book?
Andrea’s book takes as a reference the CAFÉ: the journey of Cuban artists project, a series of exhibitions in different academic spaces and museums, curated by Leandro Soto, in some of which I participated. In it the author “focuses on the CAFÉ project to explore the long and turbulent Cuban history of movement and rupture, from the perspective of its visual arts and to meditate on the way in which one reconstitutes and reinvents oneself in the context of the diaspora.” For me and my wife and colleague Natasha Perdomo it was very important to have been included in her study because when she visited us to interview us we were still living in Vancouver, Canada, and we were experiencing firsthand that process of readjustment and adaptation that occurs in the first years of geographic and cultural transplantation. And of course, it was also nice to participate in the project together with other artists that I know since we started our studies in Cuba or we participated together in some exhibitions of the 80s and now we have been part, for several decades, of this diasporic tide or species of an extraterritorial nation, along with other artists of Cuban origin who have been trained or even born outside the island and continue to create a work in which Cubanness continues to be a notable reference.
2- The issue of the Cuban Diaspora in the United States, specifically in Miami, has always caused debate around the link between the term and art. What do you see and what do you not see as attractive to being part of the Diaspora as an artist?
The subject, in the context of Miami, can take on an even more controversial nuance as it is labeled “art from exile”, but that is a straitjacket that the artist is allowed to put on or not, confining the scope of his work to limits of a getto. It is like having escaped from a corral to get into another a little larger, with more shade and food, but a corral nonetheless. Freedom is often spoken of as an absolute and universal concept, nothing relative, and sometimes we lose sight not only of the limits that are imposed, to a different degree, in each context where we land, but also those that we usually self-impose so as not to be discordant in the chorus.
I have gotten out of that choral monotony every time I have considered it necessary, because I like my work to dialogue with the social environment where it is created, (and I do not mean Miami, this kind of city-state that is for many Cubans ), but to the United States and to this entire quasi-globalized planet that we inhabit when we leave the Cuban archipelago, no matter where we establish residence.
I have always been very free and independent, and I prefer to do things my way even if it costs me twice as much work (I could explain the absence of my work in so many private, local, Cuban art collections, paraphrasing Beuys “I love Miami and Miami hates me ”); but it is fun to know that the day they “discover” it, they will have to buy it on the secondary market, at double or triple its current value, mine being a rather scarce and restricted production. And to finish answering your question, what I find most attractive about this diasporic condition is that “The air makes the eagle”, as Goethe would say.
3- The iconography in your work represents a good part of your perceptions of the world as an artist. The characters linked to the story (mainly Cuban) are accomplices to each other, supporting a language sometimes with suggestive irony. How would you describe the treatment of history in your paintings?
I consider the official history that is taught in textbooks and educational programs around the world, not only in Cuba, as a fable concocted to better control the masses, isolating them from the rest of their peers around concepts such as patriotism. and nationalism, which can make someone willing to die in war, the most lucrative business and industry in the modern era, exploiting a primitive instinct that still lives on in our genes.
My painting is, like any work of art, a fiction that is broken down into two levels of expression, that of painting itself as physical and retinal matter, a composition of colors and shapes that can be perceived as abstraction if we squint, but at the same time open them completely and focus on each element, we begin to read the narrative implicit in each one, that other fable that alludes to the official history, subverting it with a dose of humor or absurdity to expose its embrasures and seams, not with a mobilizing desire, that would touch the borders between art and the pamphlet – what today more elegantly call “ARTivism” -, but rather as a coded aesthetic message that would serve to bear witness to the things that characterized this peculiar period of human civilization and, therefore his position, to please a handful of strangers who today agree to perceive this work as a living cultural vehicle in which they see their own obsessions, philias and phobias reflected, independent Whether or not it matches the color of the sofa. But the characters or symbols that I use come from the most diverse historical, cultural or iconographic traditions and I mix them freely to achieve a kind of puppet altarpiece that parodies – and makes fun of – that great dramatic scene that History and History claim to be. Culture.
4- The use of color in most of your works has a high level of contrast between cold and warm colors, which is manifested for example in your Chromatic Aporias series. How important is color to conform to the semiotics in each of your pieces?
The Chromatic Aporias project was conceived ad hoc for a gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art, MOCA, in North Miami, a sort of site specific, made up of four large-scale paintings, one for each wall of the space, which is almost square and I resorted to the square format. But its main feature in chromatic terms is that I composed each piece playing with a pair of complementary colors: Blue-Orange, Yellow-Violet and Red-Green –which I repeated in one of the works, reversing its location from background to figure, since there are only three pairs. The reason why I turned to harmony as complementary is that in it the colors vibrate, they almost scream when juxtaposed; they are a kind of opposites that nevertheless complement each other and are always united in nature – the shadow of each color contains its complement. That’s why it seemed to me a metaphor that embodied the concept of aporia very well, albeit subtly.
In the rest of my works I use color in a very specific way, depending on the theme or the visual elements that make up the composition, for example in The Dark Night of the Soul and Backdrop, a range of cold colors between blue and violet predominate , rather dark.
5- “The carnival mixture of such dissimilar narratives could perhaps explain – embodying them – the cultural, philosophical and political paradoxes that the Cuban soul has faced during several decades of its history, while representing a contemporary recreation of the Aristotelian concept of aporia: the equality of contrary conclusions ”. This is how you pose about your Aporias series. In that carnival mix, do you propose a socio-political change for that Cuban soul or is it just an artistic resource of pictorial representation?
Some time ago I became aware of the limits of art to transform society, for example, when we tried in the 80s, those who ended up transformed were the artists. I only intend to metaphorically document a state of affairs and help to reflect on that, each one from their own interpretation and reaching their own conclusions. The soul of a nation (its idiosyncrasy) is something quite difficult to alter, hence the powers rather analyze these peculiarities in order to better exercise dominance over them. I resumed this series, after letting it sleep for more than a decade, but it was like a process, not at all conditioned by the reestablishment of Cuba-USA relations, since it was reactivated little by little with specific works such as El Caballo de Troya, 2011; The Allseing Girl, 2013; and four small pieces that I made for the collective exhibition Short Story, curated by Rubén Torres Llorca for the Juan Ruiz Gallery, in June 2014, of which three were exhibited: Who’s Next in Line ?, Yawning All the Way to Heaven and As Above, So Below), but beyond the light and ironic tone of most of the works that make it up, they approach the subject from a rather humanitarian point of view, and a feeling of deep compassion, trying to understand myself himself and help others to understand who we are in this world, in this hemisphere and this continent, beyond all the disguises, nicknames and destinations that have been assigned to us since the very foundation of the Republic of Cuba. And it is not about hurting or commiserating about our destiny, but about trying to get some practical lesson from everything we have experienced.
6- Due to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States in 2014, the socio-cultural projects between both countries have increased. What do you think about it as an artist who has formed and is an active part of both countries?
I think it is positive that this diplomatic and cultural dialogue takes place to cement a full relationship between the two countries, interrupted for more than 50 years due to the opposite roles that both had to play in the theater of the Cold War. But the holding of a large exhibition on the island with all the artists of the generation of the 80s who are part of that diaspora that we mentioned at the beginning is still pending. There was a project that Elvia Rosa Castro was curating and it would take place in February 2015 at the Visual Arts Development Center, but for various reasons it was frustrated.
7- Many people consider that the “boom” by which Cuban art transcends at this time is just a trend with a future market that, apparently, favors both collectors and artists inside and outside the Island. What are your perspectives within this “boom”?
Everything seems to indicate that so far this “boom” has focused almost exclusively on artists who reside within the island – or temporarily live abroad – who seem to be hoarding symbolic capital – and of course, financial capital. – generated by the item “Cuban Art”. Personally, this boom has not affected me even positively or negatively, I continue to have the favor of the same type of middle-class collectors, generally academics or scientists, who acquire works out of true love of art, not looking for a high-return investment ( or a status symbol, in the case of those who collect signatures, such as children competing to see who completes their set of Baseball postcards first, etc.). The great American collections, not even the Rubins, have not yet noticed my work either, when I participated in a large collective exhibition held by The 8th Floor space, belonging to their foundation, curated by Rachel Weingeist and Orlando Hernández, in 2013. But It is not something that makes me despair. Whenever it has been necessary, I have had a job, related or not to art, so as not to be forced to sell my work below its real value.
8- In the Wonderland series, the female figure is shown in a kind of wicked game in oil. How do you explain the presence of women in your work?
In this series, the repeated presence of the female figure alludes to a more evil game than that of Isaak’s song, since I took as an initial reference the use and abuse of the image of women, as a sexual symbol, by advertising commercial, to reflect on other social and economic phenomena suffered by the US population, such as the financial crisis, matching the subaltern and weak situation of the majority of the population with that historically suffered by them. I know that all of this can turn out to be quite demotic in the midst of an artistic panorama dominated by formalism, abstraction and a kind of run-of-the-mill Modernism imposed by the market, auction houses, etc. interior designer.
9- According to your experience and / or knowledge as an artist, you could define or expose your criteria on the concept of Cuban art.
It is a complex task that, as well as defining the Cuban nationality itself, but I would dare to say that Cuban art is created by any artist born in Cuba or descended from Cubans, although honestly, it seems more urgent to first define what art is, at a time when there is insistent talk of his death and the Art institution is transformed under the influence of the market and new technologies. However, this supposed death of art would be more related to the artist’s displacement to an increasingly insignificant and subordinate role in the fabric of the “art industry” – to somehow homologate it with the financial one, given the speculative nature of both-, which is a bitter irony in the context of the current resurgence of the “modernist look” –not so much of its spirit given the central role of the artist in Modernism and the avant-garde of the 20th century. Only the accurate definition of “Zombie Formalism” comes to mind, which has begun to circulate among the most serious critics as a reaction to the phenomenon.
10- In 2015 you held an exhibition with the Chromatic Aporias series at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami. What are your plans or cultural projects for the current year 2016?
I’m not used to making plans many months in advance, because you never know where you will be or if you are still alive. But in the last month, invitations to various group exhibitions have been made or appeared, among which I can confirm Fried Cuban Chicken, which opens on June 25, curated by Rochi Llaneza for the MAC Fine Art gallery in Fort Lauderdale, and the Another is CloseUp, which will open on July 7 at the Webber Gallery of the College of Central Florida, in Ocala, together with the artists Alberto Carol, Ivonne Ferrer, Lia Galletti, Ismael Gómez Peralta, Victor Gómez, Aldo Menéndez and Aimee Pérez.
11- Anything else you want to add?
Well, thank you for your interest in my art and for having dedicated a very valuable time to elaborate this interview in such an important, complicated and beautiful moment of your life as is motherhood.
Miami, September, 2016