The strong trend to abstraction in Cuba, and of painting as a notable expression of our visual arts, has in Alejandro García (Havana, 1974) one of its protagonists. Formed in the almost bicentenary San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts between 1989 and 1993, and after exhibiting in Cuba, Italy and the United States, he is not, however, an artist known as it should be in the Cuban art scene, since his personality alien to groups, institutions, movements and media makes him a sort of lone wolf in the national panorama.
In 1999 he began an extensive pilgrimage through Italy which took him to several cities of the south and to other regions of Europe (France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland) where he confirmed his pictorial vocation also because of his friendship and devotion for the extraordinary Italian artist Mimmo Rotella, who resides in Catanzaro. Walking from museum to museum, and from galleries to artists’ ateliers, he discovers sources of inspiration in some of the great painters of the History of
Art and, specially, the Italian avant-garde of the 1980s, as well as in German artists, who move and compel him to start working with large formats and experiment the use of the most diverse and unusual materials with the purpose of making works that, for moments, are difficult to categorize in a specific genre.
Alternating his life between Italy and Cuba, he develops a natural, spontaneous and somewhat anarchic sense of creation that drags him to produce a work and abandon it, immediately, to the erosion of time on the roof of his house, near the sea, in the placid neighborhood of El Náutico, west of Havana. Among the surprise of many, he exposes them under the sun and the rain during days and nights, aware that nature has sufficient gifts and qualities to collaborate with him and contribute with her strength and her accidents to his creation. He divests the pieces from their primitive material condition knowing that the support, as well as the materials, mutate and may transform themselves in a second or third entity, not very much predictable in his imagination. From that irreverent experience he selects new textures, transfigures original colors and assumes mixtures where printing ink, oil painting, acrylic, asphalt, water or natural dyes grant a unique rarity to each work that, in appearance, seems to us as antique, found in an old warehouse or perhaps belonging to an ancient collection we believed was abandoned or had disappeared.
He forgets some pieces, always exposed to the elements, to begin others in a continuous experimental process of creation uncontrollable by moments, alien to exhibitions, contests, trips, grants, residences, which today seduce numerous artists so much.
His passion is working without rest, without a specific exhibition program, without an a priori promotional goal. In this sense, his freedom is total because we always find him in his home working, thinking, listening to music from multiple cultures, little informed of what happens in his immediate environment or farther away.
That is how he starts to create a personal iconography distinguishable today in the Cuban art scene, but without the spirit of establishing and gloating on it, nor even trusting in its own legitimacy. Painting, according to his form of working and being, resists only a precarious and strange balance that in any moment of the day or the night cracks in the search of new proposals and images, also dazzled by the loneliness of life in this Havana neighborhood—with notable exclusivity during the decade of the 1950s. In his studio-workshop, built with the strength of affection and the local inventive in the top of his house, most of the works made in these last nine years are found, since he decided to definitively settle in Havana to channel his energies here, together with old and new companions of creation: Roberto Diago, Carlos Montes de Oca, José Emilio Fuentes, Douglas Argüelles, Lázaro Navarrete, Aimée García, Ruslán Torres, Jorge Luis Santos, Hanoi Pérez, Duvier del Dago, Adonis Flores, Guibert Rosales, Edgar Hechavarría, Aliosky García, Rodney González, Rewell Altunaga, Marianela Orozco…
Alejandro García is, essentially, close to the alchemist who invests uncountable hours searching for the philosopher’s stone, of what is extraordinary, of what is sublime. He experiments with canvases and Bristol boards for a total crossbreeding, ready to take both of his infinite possibilities when intervened with absolute freedom, with no prejudice at all. He works with used or broken canvases to engrave on them, as well as using engraved Bristol boards to paint on their surface. Most of the times he prints on a screw press reconstructed by himself, or leaves his footprints muddy with painting on the support because of the absence of equipment. He prefers that canvases, as well as Bristol board, had previously suffered changes so as not to feel any guilt at all when modifying them at his whim. It can be said that he works as to recover them forever, in a sort of resurrection, as if he were redeeming a corpse and giving it life… in what we could consider a two-dimensional creole version of Frankestein.
Las sombras de la vida, 2016 Mixed media on canvas
59 x 71 inches
Alejandro Garcia’s Studio, Havana Courtesy the artist
He even had retaken several of his “finished” works, considers them again and thus begins an almost infinite process of reconversion because, for him, nothing is finished, concluded, but in constant progress. Grosso modo, he covers the engravings with canvas and engraves the canvases with full self-assurance, since the expression problems are the most important for him, the dearest in his innate creative world.
It is not difficult to suppose that this controversial way of creating is fully expressed in Cuba, where he does not has at his disposal all the necessary or desired materials given the insufficiencies of specialized stores. In Italy, for example, where he goes for short periods of time, he uses what he has at hand (which is much more than what he finds in his studio in Havana) without representing anguish or anxiety when deciding the appropriate solutions. In one or other case, of course, he acts in the medieval method to prepare the canvases. He refuses to use canvases industrially prepared: that is how we can see him placing the Rabbit-Skin Glue or the Fish Glue on the canvas just as in their time Da Vinci, Miguel Ángel, Wifredo Lam or Amelia Peláez did… Then it is the turn for the Linseed Oil, for the Whiting, until leaving the canvas ready to accept oils, inks and acrylics.
In recent dates he has arranged to experiment the use of the canvas’ surface on the front and on the back, according to that series of works popularized by Mimmo Rotella as RetroD'Affiche, which consisted in ripping off the printed posters placed on the walls of any city, without minding the physical state of those which were found, to cover them with canvas and successively intervene them. That is why several of the paintings by Alejandro have today one of more faces, a sort of “double aesthetic moral” and may be hung in the middle of the exhibition space to enjoy their pictorial impact on both sides, in which the wood of the frames, the staples, the accidental scratches, hanging threads, numbers, stains, become unquestionable protagonists.
With Alejandro García’s work we see abstraction falling injured in its own battlefield, once again, to become other abstraction.
And, with all probability, new in the Cuban contemporary art scene.
His most recent show, part of the group of collateral exhibitions in the Twelfth Havana Biennial, entitled Zona Franca, in one of the vaulted spaces in the Morro Castle, assured in the catalogue that you could “…perceive the temperature of the structure of the works […] The idea conforms itself in the creation process.
It is the consequence of an accumulation of information and of experiences that affect me, positively or negatively…” In that occasion, although his attitude and aptitude were exceedingly fed from abstraction, in the vast composition of hard, cracked, roasted colors, he equally legitimated the figure of a tiger or a sign in Italian he considered prudent, without minding much the purity of the genre, since its levels of contamination and of irreverence are well high, and still are, without need to resort to blasphemy, parody or cynicism, since I consider him further away from what in past times was named as “rebel”. He is a rebellious artist, but of himself and of painting.
He does not redound in codes, symbols, signs, since he shies away from all repetition or proximity with what is established outside and inside him. If today we see those recent cuts with knives he produces in his canvases (late inheritors of Lucio Fontana) to open the pictorial space in unusual levels of figure, background and double-background, or admire other unequal fabrics that now he incorporates through hollows, we will notice that we are before an exceedingly restless creator. When it seemed he had exhausted the advantages offered by conventional ways, we then find ruptures, also new transgressions as to the use of irregular, empty formats, to surprise us and feel that extreme unconformity of his, capable of going beyond even of his own imagination.
We see abstraction falling injured in its own battlefield, once again, to become other abstraction. And, with all probability, new in the Cuban contemporary art scene. In 2016 we found in many of his works elements with figurative ascendance that seemed escaped from former periods, or from the history of painting, coexisting with stains and textures coming from the most rancid abstract tradition. Those hybridizations, that crossbreeding, have far-off precedents in that provocative trend of bad painting that few remember today, to which another one could be added, bad engraving, both alien to any aesthetic or politic correction.
The only reiteration we discover in him is an ungovernable creative eagerness, a total lack of adhesion to aesthetic rules and conventions: it is one more who escaped the squad, a sort of black sheep with very little aspirations to the satisfaction of the market or the curators.
His die is cast on polemical foundations on which, incidentally, we art critics reflect little. Creation is something we have left increasingly more to the artists and I think we have not entered into it with enough strength and passion as to discover its ins and outs, corners, cracks, folds, its so many lights and shadows; its paths and labyrinths, ready to conduct us to the controverted and entirely free world of art.