By Modesto Díaz Serpa
Antonio Espinosa almost succeeds in domesticating History, although I suppose that is not what he pursues in his symbolic quotations.
La Historia es larga, la vida es corta (History Is Long, Life Is Short), solo show at Villa Manuela Gallery (December 2013 – January 2014), introduced the artist into the panorama of Cuban visual arts after one and a half decades living and working abroad. However, Espinosa landed with admirable deliquescence on a slippery platform. The title itself already announced intentions, and indeed, the references of other contexts allowed him to open the way with comparative studies of concepts inherent to world political scenarios. Since then, the artist has deprived of their emblematic nature a series of patriotic insignias rooted in the post-revolutionary collective memory. The accumulation, from the simulation of the drawing or digital print, set standards in visual records of installations. A certain compulsive air was noticeable in the overcrowdings of Antonio, as one who, not knowing how to distinguish, wastes himself away in the ideological overdose. Something similar to a certain ailment (that must be treated, too ) in the etymological rhizome of certain categories.
His most recent works, in the same line of passive insubordination to official information, consolidate the artist’s gaze not so much around History as around the intra-history. Insight is needed for such gesture of visual deconstruction. But in the long run, A.E chooses the most effective path, that of the full conviction that no story is more convincing than the one we are witnessing. In this sense, the constant allusion to political and socio-cultural singularities in the country makes his work activate mechanisms for a wider examination.
Intersubjetividad (Inter-subjectivity), one of the most suggestive concepts that supports much of this new production, includes a shared space for the recovery of new concepts and meanings in the historical memory of a given community. Participating of the inter-subjectivity presupposes the consolidation of a common platform shared by different subjects around mutual understanding and the correspondence of action and thought. In this way, the social construction of certain concepts and meanings never cease to be transformed in the urge of human consensus.
The thoughts of theorists Alfred Schütz and Max Weber acknowledge the importance of understanding the meaning of human action for the explanation of socio-historical processes. For both, society is a group of people who act in the world and whose actions make sense; and it is relevant to try to understand this meaning in order to explain the results of the actions of the subjects. When this (such understanding) does not happen tensions of all kinds occur, and the intersubjectivity constitutes a space of chimerical presumptions. Antonio Espinosa sees in the absence of human consensus a determining space for art: a new kind of inter-subjectivity. In this space, not of strict communication but indeed of necessary sensitivities, the «understanding» is subverted as specific method, and the artist succeeds in moving to the quasi-etymological genesis once again of concepts that define us as social beings. Antonio expands this time and reaches in his most recent works a universalization of the themes and concepts he handles without being absent from his immediate context (Cuba). He then proposes a counterpoint between elements of the national history, the historical spectator he is as social and universal being, and a new aesthetic nomenclature in which all sorts of references are noticeable.
Jardín de las Delicias (Garden of Delight) one of the most important pieces in the ensemble, proposes a triptych of digital prints with strong installation potential. A group of flowers that form practically unintelligible words. The seduction of hypnotizing forms hides the subversion of contents of undoubted validity but of doubtful implementation in all societies. And at this point A.E performs one of the most interesting aesthetic-conceptual pilgrimages of his work. Although Luis Camnitzer has more than substantiated that artistic quality is not objective but contextual, in the presence of works such as Jardín de las Delicias such a sentence leaves room for doubt. An art that is part of politics and at the same time evokes original and universal contexts turns difficult. In this case, the paradox of the original contextual and the hegemonic in the same work highlights a definitely absolute and eternal visual language. DEMOCRACY, POLITICS, and FREEDOM never announced such a pessimistic spring.
Fechas después de On Kawara (Dates after On Kawara), a service zealously selected during the work process, produces a chronology in which History is nothing but its own negation. The artist sits at the table and at the banquet of national historical successions serves himself to those who show a glimpse of the irregularity of solid stories and to others not so firm. La imposibilidad de ser organizados (The Impossibility of Being Organized), Tríptico soñado (Dreamt Triptych), as well as Aguas Territoriales (Territorial Waters), materialize series on which the artist worked previously from the methodological point of view A technical virtuosity inherent to those of his generation (the nineties) is imposed through drawing, and a new concept of INSULARITY emerges from candid marinas, categories restricted to the political-geographical definition that defines us (COUNTRY, NATION, ISLAND ), or to a new type of ideological consumerism (CHANGE).
Antonio Espinosa fabricates on his chameleonic supports a new socio-political landscape in the panorama of Cuban visual arts. They are definitely reflexive cognitive processes in the face of the vague moralizing vitality.