To Penetrate a Cyclical Reality

By Maeva Peraza

A sort of paradox surrounds the graphic universe: mobility, impermanence. In the last few decades, the rupture and even the disregard of formal limits between artistic specialties have become visible in the Cuban scene; the field of engraving has expanded with the technological development and new media, readapting and enriching itself. Although transfers between concomitant fields are already frequent, their background, far from revealing a whimsical intention, evidences a conceptual progression that necessarily leads to the search of new codes:

[…] Undoubtedly, among the innovative artists are the names of the engravers who have also transformed the history of our visual arts, who, in their experimental works, handled familiarly mixed techniques, intertextuality, eclecticism or “appropriation” […].1

In Antonio Espinosa we find a creator whose graphic vocation is intrinsically linked to his installation work, to an interest in showing the duplicity of political contexts, of History itself, or of any expression close to the tension produced by power. The artist uses words as visual signs, and objectifies their spelling while decomposing the meanings. His works lay siege to art forms in force, focusing on their temporary condition and obliging them to show their true nature, or in other words, their inoperativeness.

Historia (History) is one of the pieces with the greatest impact and one of the first works within said “installation stage”. In this way, History ceases to be a group of successive events with incidence on a certain social group, and becomes an accumulation, an addition of a disarticulated narration that aims at a multiple glance. For Antonio Espinosa, the most adequate metaphor when broaching the concept is the bookseller as form of convergence; the artist knows that the word has several meanings in its original function, and attempts to show us that the object is also in that case. In this regard, the greatest profit obtained by the piece lies in the will to bring together different versions, to make memorably opposed voices coincide in order to create an ecumenical view of History.

Reliquias de familia (Family Relics), in turn, focuses on a common motif: the logos of the Communist Party congresses, held in Cuba normally every five years. The artist articulates this proposal through an elaborate system of ambivalences. First we observe the repetition of the ideological symbol printed on each plate; the image is lapidary: it shows the flag held with extended arms by a euphoric, scarcely sketched, faceless mass. But the contradiction continues when we stop at the fine, highly renowned, century-old Limoges French porcelain. Thus we find two different meanings of relic, one of them linked to the radicalization of a social process and the other sustained on the emergence of the bourgeois tradition – an odd tradition when we take into consideration that these expressions have been regarded as opposition and have been denied in a country where social division is increasing.

The complicity in the dates is the theme proposed by the work Conquista de lo inútil (Conquest of Uselessness), where a sort of fate brings together temporarily isolated events, showing that something gruesome hides in them, as if by joining they would favor a hidden paradox that anticipates and determines the future of History.

Two diachronic moments meet again in that piece: on April 16, 1961 the socialist nature of the Cuban Revolution was disclosed, determining an irrevocable course in the nation’s life; while on December 2, 1986 the process of rectifying errors and negative trends of that proclamation signed twenty-five years before came to an end. The artist seems to tell us that the coincidence of these moments is not casual: the macro history goes back on its steps while the events repeat themselves disdaining all resistance. The “conquests” are confirmed and recalled to exhaustion, reaching the border of insubstantiality and uselessness.

There is a circular tour in these pieces, a rotation that returns to the same point, evidencing mental idleness and inaction in the presented reality. Beyond the added attraction supposedly inherent to political art and the social action conveyed by the committed practice, Antonio Espinosa raises the circumstances and the ideology to a higher level: that of the inexorable passing of time.

1. Péramo, Hortensia: “Grabado en la memoria” (Printed in the Memory). In Grabado en la memoria by Aliosky García. Cúpulas Publishing House, Havana, 2014