Art On Cuba - - Index - DARYS J. VÁZQUEZ AGUIAR

To­day we live in a world in which re­al­ity flows through the rapid re­ac­tion of so­cial me­dia and the glob­ally in­ter­con­nected me­dia. We all be­lieve we know of things that we have never even ex­pe­ri­enced. The “au­then­tic truth” has be­come one of the great utopias of to­day. It is a power that con­sumes and goes beyond in­di­vid­u­als. In this com­ing and go­ing, the paths of ev­er­last­ing re­al­ity, of the events and wit­nesses that doc­u­ment his­tory cross with those of the so­cially armed and shared fic­tion.

Den­nis Izquierdo be­longs to this world, not be­cause he lives in it, but rather be­cause he un­der­stands the codes man­aged by his time. He feels part of the game of ma­nip­u­la­tions of con­tem­po­rary imag­i­na­tion and of its power re­la­tions. Re­sources like the the­atri­cal and fic­tion, he says, are what al­low me to sug­gest and cre­ate a cer­tain men­tal state in the work. He shares the space of art with those of re­al­ity to reach an am­bigu­ous and cyn­i­cal re­sult. His crit­i­cal spirit was con­sol­i­dated when he started study­ing in the Higher In­sti­tute of Art (ISA), where he has his bronze foundry and is a pro­fes­sor of sculp­ture. A grad­u­ate from 2008, his name forms part of the first grad­u­ates of the 21st cen­tury, who mark the guide­lines of young con­tem­po­rary art.

Tiro de gra­cia (Coup de Grâce; 2017) – his last solo ex­hi­bi­tion in La Aca­cia Gallery – es­tab­lishes a con­nec­tion of con­ti­nu­ity with all his pre­vi­ous work, specif­i­cally with the 2013 ex­hi­bi­tion Rojo (Red). In both col­lec­tions, he ques­tions a philo­soph­i­cal cur­rent that “jus­ti­fies” war un­der the mech­a­nisms of a sup­posed po­lit­i­cal ra­tio­nal­ity.

In Tiro de gra­cia, the mil­i­tary theme serves as the scene for other con­tro­ver­sies, among them that of the “his­toric truth.” Den­nis takes this re­flec­tion along the paths of what seems to have hap­pened (his­tory told and re­peated) as well as of the al­leged real his­tory. The il­lu­sion as a de­cep­tive metaphor of re­al­ity is a pre­text to de­sign the dimly lit en­vi­ron­ments of the ex­hi­bi­tion. This light­ing ef­fect dif­fuses the phys­i­cal sep­a­ra­tions of the spa­ces and con­nects, un­der the enigma, the nine pieces (in­stal­la­tions, sculp­tural ob­jects) that were al­ter­nately placed in four rooms of the gallery.

The dis­play starts with a re­make of his pro­duc­tion. With a more con­fi­den­tial tone he in­serts, on a small scale, the piece Ar­mory Show, 2017, a macro in­stal­la­tion that he had made in 2015 as part of Zona Franca (Duty–Free Zone) dur­ing the 12th Ha­vana Bi­en­nial. For Tiro de gra­cia, Den­nis reis­sues the struc­ture of the bar­ri­cade. He stacks small su­gar sacks over a heap of raw su­gar and places on a minia­ture ma­chine gun built by him, to serve as a look­out. The smell of su­crose ac­ti­vates the senses. Breath­ing it stirs up the foun­da­tions of his­tory. It's im­pos­si­ble not to look back at 500 years of cul­tural her­itage linked to the pro­duc­tion of sug­ar­cane, which con­sol­i­dated the Cuban na­tion and iden­tity. A se­quence in retrospective is in­duced: slav­ery, the su­gar mill, its mech­a­niza­tion, the first rail­road en­gine, the Mambí in­de­pen­dence fight­ers' torch­ing of the plan­ta­tions, the cre­ation of the Cuban Su­gar Com­pany dur­ing neo­colo­nial times, the bearded men in power in 1959, the re­duc­tion to zero of the su­gar quota for the United States, the fail­ure of the 10–mil­lion– ton su­gar har­vest, the col­lapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the dis­man­tling and clos­ing of su­gar fac­to­ries, the su­gar paral­y­sis, its re­cent pro­duc­tive or­ga­ni­za­tion on the is­land. The su­gar har­vest and the time out, two stages of the Cuban coun­try­side's dy­nam­ics, also form part of ti­tles of the work.

As a se­ries of events rac­ing in time, Ar­mory Show (hint­ing at the 1913 Modern Art In­ter­na­tional Ex­po­si­tion in the Ar­mory of the 69th Reg­i­ment of the Na­tional Guard in New York), opens the dis­play with a well–known phrase: a peo­ple that doesn't re­mem­ber its his­tory runs the risk of re­peat­ing its mis­takes.

The ques­tion of the present, the evo­ca­tion of pol­i­tics, vi­o­lence and armed con­flict are re­taken based on one of the old­est so­cial in­sti­tu­tions: mar­riage. As stoic bronze col­umns, two real 50–cen­time­ter–high pro­jec­tiles are a call to at­ten­tion to re­la­tions be­tween Cuba and the United States, whose his­tory dates back to the in­de­pen­dence of the 13 Colonies, Ben­jamin Franklin, Thomas Jef­fer­son and John Quincy Adams. En­graved on the pro­jec­tiles – as if they were en­gage­ment rings – is a short text taken from the con­sti­tu­tions of both coun­tries.

Den­nis, like La­can, knows that the truth al­ready im­plies the dis­course that can­not be said or that can only be half said.

The piece ti­tled 16 de abril de 1961 (April 16, 1961) af­firms this re­flec­tion. The work refers to the date in which the so­cial­ist char­ac­ter of the Cuban rev­o­lu­tion was pro­claimed by Fidel Cas­tro. The artist places a se­ries of books in pati­nated resin, which have been shot dead. It doesn't mat­ter if you're left or right handed;

Den­nis, like La­can, knows that the truth al­ready im­plies the dis­course that can­not be said or that can only be half said.

the weapon in­vites one to use it and shoot. The sym­bolic act char­ac­ter­izes hu­man na­ture and its self–de­struc­tive spirit. A bronze pil­low is placed to smother the sup­posed bang.

The work is part of a process of self–an­ni­hi­la­tion of our his­tory, says the artist. With the piece –16 de abril de 1961– the in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized dis­course and ide­o­log­i­cal hege­mony as the foun­da­tion of po­lit­i­cal power are judged in­dicted.

A mov­ing and at the same time hor­ri­fy­ing sculp­ture ti­tled Líder (Leader; 2017), closes the ex­hi­bi­tion. The bust of José Martí, our in­de­pen­dence hero and one of the most im­por­tant men of Span­ish–Amer­i­can his­tory, pol­i­tics and lit­er­a­ture, has been cov­ered with strips of fab­ric, a clear al­lu­sion to the mil­i­tary uni­forms of the Cuban rebels. This holy war ap­parel, which cul­mi­nates around the neck of the fig­ure as an olive green tie, high­lights an im­age of the Na­tional Hero that is not com­mon – but which is iden­ti­fi­able. It is a mum­mi­fied Martí, with a cov­ered face, who rises from among the dead as an Eg­gun or spirit, link­ing Science and Faith. It is the idea of the “con­tin­u­ous be­ing,” of the start with death, life, the per­ma­nent re­birth of hu­man ideals, of lead­er­ships, myths, free­dom and home­land. Den­nis points, with this clos­ing, to his­tory as fate more than as the past, with­out re­nounc­ing with this, of course, the idea of who we are and from where we come.

Den­nis Izquierdo is a provo­ca­teur of the senses. Al­though this is not new at all, the way in which he goes from one zone to another sur­passes any sym­bolic and in­tel­lec­tual im­mo­bil­ity. He cre­ated for him­self a de­fin­i­tive law that does not con­form to the es­tab­lished meth­ods and the stag­nant truths. How­ever, the dis­clo­sure of cer­tain mech­a­nisms is the coup de grâce of his work: how his­tory is con­structed, how the im­bal­ance of power re­la­tions, of re­al­ity and of dreams are cre­ated. ƒ

Ha­vana, 2018

Ar­mory show, 2017 Ri­fle, sacks of su­gar and su­gar Vari­able di­men­sions El líder, 2017 Resin and fab­ric Courtesy of the artist

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