AJUBEL’S MEMORY AND AJUBEL’S OBLIVION
Neither in Cézanne’s views of the Sainte-Victoire mountain, nor in those of Tahiti by Gauguin, nor those of Arles by Van Gogh... not even in those of Montmartre by Toulouse-Lautrec, the man of the images precariously subject to accuracy (to name some of the painters that at some point nurtured Ajubel’s budding gaze), is there an explicit will of reality in what is depicted, but rather the self-sufficient tension to go a little further from the literal and find the point of contact between the false and the true, the apparent and the essential, or the sensual, in its most jubilant version, and the conceptual. Just as we would not find that will in the painter that our Cuban artist (Alberto Morales Ajubel, Sagua la Grande, Cuba, 1956) wanted to be as a child: Rembrandt, of whom Jacob Rosenberg said that “in his work the divide between the realistic and the imaginary cannot be clearly traced.”
Without ever dismissing that early vocation, Ajubel applied himself for years to another skill, that of drawing, with which he imparted his knowledge from the pages of the mythical “DDT,” demonstrating his abilities in that territory, to synthesize the multiple metaphors and paradoxes that speak to us of the effort of men to define themselves as individuals.
Sooner rather than later we knew, however, as a happily disturbing graphic style had been announcing, that Ajubel the painter would fully return to argue with what is external and accidental in this present in which modernity is in question.
The settled reality—even the unreal reality—and the screens, open twenty-four hours, generating an ecstatic collective blindness. Now that the meaning of a work of art comes more from speaking, or from lying, than seeing.
And thus he has finally decided to show us his beautiful phantasmagoria, which can be superficially misread as an evocation of his tropical origins, a sort of stroll through the primordial house of memory, between folklorism and an indigenism at times incomprehensible; no more or less than what a foreign spectator would expect from the deep Cubanness of his demiurge, “Cuban art for export,” just another purveyor of the island’s ornamentation ready for unreflective consumption. Which is not the case. Which is not his case.
Because I have always seen in Ajubel’s eyes a kind of permanent game of photographic shutters, in which as soon as one, or both, of them closed, or were kept open, looking to print some images in his mind of just the right point of imprecision to be able to later dismiss them and not have, therefore, to surrender slavishly to their evidence. Images that in their own condition of weakened or overexposed instantaneity would possess something of the grounds of the eternal. Or, if you prefer, something of the conscience as pictorial subject, which is what a good part of the best modern artistic premises came to provide.
But, as this procedure is a good way to recreate the created and to bestow the far away with more vividness, in these paintings there is another course of action, or so it seems to me, that awakens in me the skepticism which I am always in pursuit of when met with a work, looking for what it harbors from experience.
I refer to the permanent discord that presides in his painting, a discord that explodes in an abundance of chromatic sparks, so fluid at times between memory and oblivion; the two sides of a personal identity that indistinctly views his autobiography in both mirrors of his mind, to extract some images which we do not know if about to be erased or reaffirmed, and that, to that extent, only we, the spectators, can amnesty or condemn, granting them a before or after.
The painting, then, of a stubborn modernist whose sensitivity moved him as a child to be like Rembrandt, which today compels him to discard the hegemony of a complacent vision and to adopt one that reveals his sensitivity to another possible world and that, despite his defense of “the truly alive” as expressed by Greenberg, does not hesitate to reestablish the relevant contacts with tradition, any tradition, to be reinforced through contrast. A game of mirrors, in the end, that is obviously born of a previous infatuation that, later, subjected to a managed oblivion and a controlled memory, goes through a metamorphosis phase, which Ajubel sometimes lets us glimpse, to end up being a declaration of love to the creation itself, that which is simply time paused and is inspired by a mystery that, incidentally, and obviously, is revealed to us. A mystery regulated by an avowed selfconscious enemy of corrupted sensitivity, and in which everything has the appearance of taking place for the first time, that the painter and we are inventing a natural world, partly utopian, and free of hyperboles, which is the fruit of a voluntarily shared and consciously happy experience.
Ajubel’s euphoric dreams are made for our vigils, which seem to be produced with the sole objective of complementing them.
Lucy, from the series Mirrors, 2014 Mixed media 16 x 22 in Jinete elegante, from the series Horses, 2017 Mixed media 27 x 39 in
Malecón-Habana, from the series Utopian Tropic, 2014 / Mixed media / 39 x 20 in La Pelota, from the series Baseball, 2017 / Mixed media / 27 x 39 in