Updating Identity, Antonio Núñez

/ 1 June, 2016

Antonio Núñez (Camaguey, Cuba, 1971) graduated in painting in the Higher Institute of Arts (ISA) in 1998 and, since 2001, lives and works in Aachen, Germany. His pictorial work, many times of large format and expanded in the space as an object of tridimensional nature, has something that invites transgression. A constant ironical challenge on our customary form of seeing is highlighted in it. Also, in the optic subtlety of its chiaroscuros and the superposition of small color layers, worked in a hyper-realistic manner, there is a sarcastic play consisting in systematically contaminating the figurebackground relationship, propitiating at the same time the illusion of something in which we believe, but is not.

(…) Had there been a solid fact that made you think that your work as an artist could not change reality?

Before thinking in that we cannot forget that we grew with a militant attitude. The attitude of pioneers. We did voluntary work, we collected the cotización1; we had military training when we were 12 years old or harvested tomatoes. I must confess I very much enjoyed this entire process because my parents were well integrated in the process of the Revolution and that influenced me as a person and, later, as a visual arts student. Towards the end of the 1980s and in the 1990s everything was more spontaneous, more natural. Nowadays, I think we can influence a nearby context. I can project Art, or what I do, and consider it something personal. It is as if making a portrait of oneself and sharing it with others. While visual arts are carried out as a product from galleries and museums or artistic events, the access to the great public will be limited. That is why I believe that we should not necessarily think if it is art or not. I am thinking on Internet, on how a simple caricature may influence an entire politics, not only national, but international.

(…) But what I miss in those years is spontaneity. Today artists are more “professional”, but rather to create for themselves labels or drawers where it is easy to search. When an art event is to be organized we do not have to think, because each one of them is classified. That is why I find uncomfortable to read artists who consider themselves lyric politicians or politicians with poetic abilities to build a speech. Now I laugh a lot and think about the song by Calle 13: “you say little because you know little…” Perhaps this might be another classification. I think that, in these times, critics, in Cuba as well as in Europe, do not argue, do not provoke, or irritate very little. I call it “Ikea attitude”.

In your first productions, as the J-AULA series, you try to deconstruct the collective memory and its role in the development of Cuban identity. What moved you to this type of investigation?

On deconstructing Cuban identity, or on the topic of collective memory, I sincerely believe that it is a more ideological construct, or of a religious origin, or of a medieval, socialist or capitalist system. It doesn’t matter. What is important for me is that any system or project almost always forgets individuality, in the bestcase scenario. That is why I do not share the idea of the Cuban ethnologist and sociologist Fernando Ortiz that we are an ajiaco.  I rather think we are a collage. An ajiaco may become a recipe.  In fact, I think Cuban art suffers very much because of conventions like this. A collage is something alive which rejects and takes according to the time and the place it inhabits. But I consider more interesting that it is a method which includes, a method where everything is possible, a method that does not exclude, but integrates. That is why the series J-AULA questioned, from what is personal, the spaces where a human being—especially me as a Cuban—may feel caged. It was like a panning of my generation’s origins. (…)

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