Waiting for lightness

José A. Vincench in New York

/ 1 September, 2016

From February 26 to March 26, the gallery Thomas Jaeckel of New York welcomed the solo show by José Ángel Vincench, The Weight of Words. The exhibition included paintings and sculptures of the homonymous series in which the artist has been working since 2011. Also, works of the series Action Painting and Cuestión de Óptica (Matter of Optics), made last year, were shown. This exhibition offers continuity to a series of presentations of Cuban art that have recently been held in New York, especially in the district of Chelsea, confirming the growing interest that has been generated around it in the North American cultural sphere, since the last political changes in the relations between Cuba and the United States.

(…) In general, in Vincench’s work there is an interest to articulate a game between what is veiled and what is evident, what can be said and what must be silenced. It is a proposal that, in a given way, synthetizes the strategies of survival developed by the Cuban in the island and perfected by him during years to deal with his  daily reality, whether in the practical as well as in the ideological field. That is why in the canvases El peso de las palabras the artist converts concepts of the socio-political vocabulary, key words in the history and the present of Cuba, in stylized and abstract images. The exercise of deconstruction carried out implies the superimposition of the letters composing words like Exilio, Disidente, Gusano, Cambio, Autonomía (Exile, Dissident, Worm, referring to people that leave the country or dislike the regime, Change, Autonomy). The artist chooses, then, some of the new areas created in the resulting composition and reproduces them using, as we mentioned before, the gold leaf. It also happens in this case that only a second look or a deep observation and, above all, since the reading of the title, will give us the clues to understand the background and operatory displayed in these works. This result takes us to consider those words, their concept, their evolution and their meaning in the course of the country’s history. Vincench conducts an incisive signaling on what these terms have implied and the way in which they have affected and affect Cuban society, based on a practice that apparently neutralizes the subversive potential of these words, by isolating and stylizing their formal attributes, returning them to us as a museum specimen or a rare and valuable object. This process also warns us to think in the expiration of many of the facts associated to these words and the way in which they will remain in history as a succession of dates and anecdotes that unknowns the personal drama of all those who have suffered the crooked tentacles of power.

A similar discursive interest is appreciated in the sculptures of three golden ingots we see in the gallery accompanying the rest of the works. These pieces—made in wood and later covered with gold leaf—also have words inscribed: the terms Ganso, Negro y Gusano (Goose, referring to gay men, Black/Nigger, and Worm). Words that, by themselves, do not have a symbolic load besides that of the animal or the color they name and, however, in the context of the history of the island, and further away from it, acquire pejorative connotation and remit us to events, moments and persons who suffered or suffer the discrimination they imply. Many are the ideas that suddenly come to mind before this creative, paradoxical, ironic exercise, which has several levels of conceptual elaboration and is still being marked, as the paintings commented before, because of that principle of masking to be able to disclose, transform to be able to discover, disguise to be able to express (…).

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