Variations of the Landscape

By Maeva Peraza

The landscape work of Antonio Espinosa (Cuba, 1974) is built from evocation, from an agglomeration of senses that transcends visual achievements. His landscapes are oriented to a metaphysics that could be described as existential, in them the absence of color and the sense of desolation create a symbolic universe where it is ostensible another documentation of reality and a fertile dialogue with the aesthetics of recognized artists such as Mark Tansey and Tomás Sánchez.

But the work of this creator is not only oriented to the landscape bucolism, his work also focuses social facts from an ideological and contextual manipulation, using resources such as the personality of historical leaders of Cuban social processes and shading their actions and words. In this sense, Espinosa holds political speeches and extracts them from their circumstances, making evident the fragility of ideologies and their susceptibility to misunderstanding. These topics do not necessarily constitute a change within the corpus of his work, since the artist inserts them with coherence in his production, which curiously allows him to evade reality and at the same time put in focus a macrocontext that he takes up again alternatively; either as a resource of irony or with a will to maximize the weakness of the base of the government pyramid.

His recent personal exhibition at La Suite Gallery in Barcelona illustrates these relatively new interests in his creation and is a highlight of the artist’s presentations in Cuba and abroad during 2014. The exhibition combines a variety of formats including installations, photographs, drawings, watercolors, and canvases, where each piece emerges as a micro-story aimed at examining specific contemporary situations. Another of the exhibition’s distinctions is the interest in the object, both in its representation and in all the symbolic load it can provide. In this way, stamps, books, candies and medicine wrappers become resources for reflecting on alienation, the omnipresence of power and the relevance of consumerism in the modern era.

The work Sujeto colectivo (Collective Subject) illustrates this intention of the author to speak from the «other». The triptych seeks, from the visibilization and multiplicity, to show an achievement of psychological states in which the human being annuls his individuality, in order to submerge himself in a communicative entropy. The objects portrayed are only a pretext to enter into processes such as alienation and conformity, common in a society that Antonio Espinosa wants us to recognize.

In the same way, the Renunciation and Ambiguity group advocates the exposition of certain slogans or patriotic hymns, uttered in huge speeches and public meetings. Phrases such as: «…my first obligation», «…many years of struggle», «…the revolutionary work»; are antecedents with which the artist alludes to historical periods and social conflicts, which derived in a fracture of the preceding orders. The history evoked by the artist through the works exhibited is as intimate as it is plural; it is a product of the collective memory, where the spectator recognizes his own history; since the stories open up so that the receiver can complete their meaning, based on memory, on remembrance.

In this sense, the piece History summarizes Espinosa’s questions about the universality of history and the uniqueness of his stories. The artist takes advantage of the spelling of the word to (re)construct a concept of historicity that is more attached to the Cuban context. The kind of bookcase that the piece symbolizes, in an installation effort, houses books referring to the history of Cuba and its top managers. It is, in this case, the apparently happy union of titles recognized and endorsed by the State and others, which respond to a different discourse, written by the «detractors» or dissidents of the regime. Antonio Espinosa allows to glimpse the variability of all historical construction as fictional construction; hence these rewritings are essential.

A taste for the dreamlike is maintained in the landscapes presented by the artist on this occasion. We witness in them the monochrome of boats stranded among the clouds, alone; that do not reach or go anywhere. The artist thus transposes the reason for the journey, but it is not a physical journey, but the spiritual journey that every human being makes in his life journey. The sea is for Antonio Espinosa a metaphor of the whole and of the nothing, that has marked and conditioned the history of the nation from the exchange, the trip, the exodus.

In this way the creator brings together these two paths that are perceived in his work. His variations respond to a personal vision of everything around him, to a tireless questioning nourished by the knowledge of those «two natures» that the artist reflects incessantly.