Gabriel Sánchez Toledo:

Art On Cuba - - INDEX -

If you go into the con­tem­po­rary art world, and want to get deeper into the sub­ject by ask­ing crit­ics, jour­nal­ists, gallery own­ers, mu­seum di­rec­tors, bi­en­ni­als… about Cuban art, all of them ei­ther ex­claim, sob, dis­cuss, love, or hate… but no­body re­mains in­dif­fer­ent when asked this ques­tion.

This is the great­ness of Cuban art in these mo­ments, ev­ery­body has or pre­tends to have an opin­ion on this sub­ject. Right now there is like an oneiric at­mos­phere en­clos­ing what is Cuban, in which Chronos, with its leg­endary wis­dom, will solve the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial al­ter­na­tive of the is­land. But as re­gards the sub­ject that con­cerns us, there is ab­so­lutely no doubt that for decades Cuban artists have ranked highly world­wide for be­ing one of the groups that par­tic­i­pate more in ev­ery kind of cir­cuit. It is dif­fi­cult to at­tend an in­ter­na­tional artis­tic event and not meet a wide range of Cuban artists.

Qual­ity and quan­tity do not al­ways go hand in hand, but in

Cuba an ex­cep­tion could be made: the ra­tio of tal­ent is sim­ply over­whelm­ing and it would make the most skep­ti­cal per­son blush.

Within the thriv­ing num­ber of this ex­ten­sive con­tin­gent, I like to make a stop at those that are un­com­mon, strange par­ti­cles that un­leash a dis­tinc­tive cre­ative process, sur­pris­ing and sim­ple at the same time. Al­though we strive to go over things again and again, sim­plic­ity of­ten leads to great find­ings.

I have been trav­el­ling to this se­duc­tive coun­try for years and have tried to im­merse my­self into the most iso­lated and un­usual places, wher­ever you could glimpse a spring of cre­ativ­ity. In this Cuban or­chard I have found big rivers whose banks were al­ready very con­sol­i­dated; I have also en­joyed pure, fresh springs that grad­u­ally be­came big, los­ing fresh­ness and pu­rity, al­though never its bril­liance. Others were al­most dry when I ar­rived, wells where we used to drink from but now the murky wa­ter of mar­ket has dis­rupted ev­ery­thing. I even saw some of them emerg­ing for the first time and I have fol­lowed them since then, like the lit­tle prince fol­lowed the growth of his rose, in my case, not to do­mes­ti­cate it but to taste each of its steps.

Gabriel Sánchez Toledo (Cabaiguán, Cuba, 1979), ma­jored in Fine Arts from the Es­cuela de Arte Sa­muel Fei­jóo (Villa Clara), is one of those cases I have been fol­low­ing for some time and his work has grad­u­ally evolved un­til find­ing its space. In a global world, where ev­ery­thing looks too much like ev­ery­thing, to ac­com­plish your own iden­tity sign is some­thing fun­da­men­tal. Nor­mally artists try to look for it out­side, but Gabriel’s trip to his in­ner self has had a sur­pris­ing out­come, sim­ply in­ti­mate and per­sonal.

In a short pe­riod of time I have been able to visit two of his solo shows, so jux­ta­posed in its for­mal char­ac­ter and its pro­ce­dure as in the dis­tance that sep­a­rates them. The first one at the Cen­tro de De­sar­rollo de las Artes Visuales (Cen­ter for the De­vel­op­ment of Vis­ual Arts, CDAV), in La Ha­bana Vieja (Old Ha­vana) un­til May the 28th; the sec­ond one at QUAN, Cen­ter of In­ter­na­tional Art of Song Zhuang, Bei­jing, un­til June the 15th, 2017.

When I faced the work that Gabriel was pre­sent­ing at the

CDAV I was struck by all those worn-out ad­jec­tives that art crit­ics of­ten use when some­body leaves us as­tounded. I refuse to enu­mer­ate them… Well, just a few will not do any harm: I thought it was a coura­geous bet, dar­ing, rup­ture-like and I would even dare to use the term “brazen”. Both in the pre­sen­ta­tion—five dozen pa­pers flooded the space and took over the muse­ol­ogy; in­deed, work on pa­per, which was con­sid­ered a mi­nor genre but that has been mag­ni­fied by all the great artists—as well as in the con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion of the work pre­sented. It is not a prepara­tory work, nor a sketch, rather it is a firm wager for a pic­to­rial re­al­ity as­sumed from the most in­ti­mate to be later ex­ported as a joint vi­su­al­iza­tion, as a whole. The “I” turns into “you” or rather

“we”, form­ing a seg­mented but not par­ti­tioned whole.

The pro­posal at Song Zhuang, ti­tled Dust and Fog, is like look­ing from the other side of the mir­ror, the re­flec­tion is en­larged and it turns plu­per­fect, the nar­ra­tive essence re­main­ing. Large pieces on can­vas mea­sur­ing 20 x 20 ft. that dis­play the same strength and the same truth re­flected on the pa­pers, the same path.

When I en­tered the ex­hi­bi­tion, my mind was set on the past, a pic­to­rial work close to the ab­stract land­scape. Land­scape is part of his DNA: Since he was a small child he used to watch his mother, the pres­ti­gious land­scapist Ania Toledo, for hours. His aca­demic for­ma­tion is based on the pres­ti­gious Cuban pic­to­rial school, hav­ing as ref­er­ent a gen­er­a­tion with force­ful po­et­ics like those of Tomás Sánchez, Zaida del Río, Roberto Fabelo, Nel­son Domínguez and Pe­dro Pablo Oliva. When I en­tered the CDAV I re­ceived a sur­pris­ing im­age, the space was filled up of black pa­pers that had a force and skill only at­tained by the greats, and the fig­u­ra­tive ab­strac­tion al­most ex­pres­sion­ist that per­sisted in GST had dis­ap­peared com­pletely.

Ab­strac­tion had been able to im­pose it­self. He had moved away from fash­ion and from the dif­fer­ent trends that have been es­tab­lished around fig­u­ra­tive ab­strac­tion. He had gone far­ther in his metic­u­lous­ness and per­fec­tion­ism: from his ab­so­lute sub­jec­tion to tech­niques that he mas­tered to his plunge into empti­ness, which sup­pos­edly means to em­brace ab­strac­tion. He has been able to in­cor­po­rate a sin­gu­lar life to his ab­strac­tions and by do­ing this, also dif­fer­ent dis­courses that re­spond to the broad pa­ram­e­ters that his experience trea­sures, and that in these two ex­hi­bi­tions he ful­fills and re­gales still pre­serv­ing all the essence of his chro­mat­ics.

I am dis­posed to as­sure, with­out any ap­pre­hen­sion, that Gabriel Sánchez Toledo is one of those artists who learned how to look with­out be­ing seen, to ex­plore them­selves with­out any com­plex in or­der to be able to con­vey af­ter­wards, that truth that each of their works of­fer us. ƒ

Gabriel Sánchez Toledo had gone far­ther in his metic­u­lous­ness and per­fec­tion­ism: from his ab­so­lute sub­jec­tion to tech­niques that he mas­tered to his plunge into empti­ness, which sup­pos­edly means to em­brace ab­strac­tion.

Un­ti­tled. From the se­ries Dust and Fog, 2017 Trip­tych (De­tail) / Acrylic on can­vas

78¾ x 53 inches (each)

Un­ti­tled. From the se­ries De­sar­raigo, 2017 Acrylic on pa­per

23½ x 31½ inches

Cour­tesy the artist

Un­ti­tled. From the se­ries Dust and Fog, 2017 Dip­tych

Acrylic on can­vas

23½ x 31½ inches (each)

Cour­tesy the artist

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