(…) I must confess that since several years ago, as many colleagues, I have been waiting for the granting of this prize to José Manuel Fors. I also confess that, when I knew it, the first thing I asked was about the jury, and I felt an immense satisfaction when I knew that, as part of its members, not only were historical figures headed by Pedro de Oraá, but also an important number of young art historians who are building in the last times the new art criticism. t is not fortuitous, therefore, this selection, as it will not be one day Tomás Sánchez, who together with Fors helped transform the look of Cuban art to the natural environment, updating and modernizing the genre, each within its unique style.
(…) It is worth to remember that, within Cuban art, there has not been an artist who has not experimented in some given moment of his career the challenge that the creation of a landscape is. A journey on the works that this interest has given place even allows recognizing the evolution of national art and the influences to which it has been submitted throughout the years, according with the styles trending. (…)
What a surprise when, beginning in the 1980s, a youngster of barely twenty-five years old subverts the look to the local nature and disarms the critics and the historians of art of the moment, surprised before the excess that were those piles of dry leaves placed on the ground that had nothing to do with the traditional way of looking at nature and building a landscape in our country, to which the painters had still accustomed us.
(…) At that date, in the art of the main international circuits, art-nature relationship had adopted different forms of manifesting itself. Land art was already consolidated, just as arte povera and other trends within the saga of them both, originated mainly in the early 1960s, when production and consumption had evolved into the structural elements of society, and art, absorbed by the system, had begun to look for new forms of survival. Within this circumstance, in North America as well as in Europe, a new generation of artists emerged. Escaping from the mercantilism generated in art, they began to find zones in which to act, more linked to the space and the time in which they lived.
It was then that, among some of those youngsters, the interest to develop a new relationship with the natural environment appeared, linked in some cases with the preoccupations on the environmental deterioration that had given place to very diverse movements that, with time, would be comprised within the term of environmentalism. (…) Since then the artists who think on acting in/from nature, with the specificities typical of each trend, with works placed in public spaces or focused for the inside, had the common purpose of moving away from the traditional forms of painting and sculpture, as well as producing emotions in the spectator, whether when facing a landscape within its own structure, as happened with land art, or when facing a work in which the natural elements found their own value, as to arte povera.
(…) Further away from the defense of the fragile nature, the issue was the legitimation of a new artistic behavior, of a way to work whose anti-conventionalism supposed an important reflection in aesthetic terms on the relations between the material, the work and the process. A strategy that claimed the use of humble materials, whose deterioration with the effects of the pass of time evolved into a value in itself, turned into an artistic category by those who were more interested in the processes than in the final result.
Fors came out to light, precisely, within that artistic strategy. His interest was not to stand as a safeguard of nature, as some may suppose. (…) But Fors was not then, and neither is now, a militant ecologist. In his case the motivations were other. Above all, they had to do with the problematic of the artistic rupture which at the time occupied the mind and action of many of his colleagues (…) His anxiety turned into an obsession was art itself, which explains that, from very early, he directed his inquiries to the search of formulas with which to escape from prevailing traditionalism and that, without leaving the ambit of what was his, contributed to give to Cuban art the dimension of universality of which, in general, its main expressions lacked.
Either way, we must recognize that the type of project he developed since then, born from the approach to nature as material of visual experimentation and source of aesthetic experience, opened a trend that a new generation of Cuban artists would adopt, in which the work with non-conventional materials would be privileged. From an aesthetic perspective this meant, on one hand, the reflection on the relationships between the material and the process of fulfillment of the work and, on the other, a clear rejection to the traditional forms of creation.
The merit of Fors is, then, within the ambits of the aesthetic. (…)
Editor’s Note: This text is an almost identical version, edited for Art OnCuba, to Elogio para Fors (Praise for Fors) that Dr. Llilian Llanes read in the ceremony of the National Visual Arts Award 2016 to this artist, on January 10 of 2017, National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana.