A journey through Tonel’s geography
On the artist’s recent solo show at Factoría Habana*
Focusing on the essence is a constant element in the art of Antonio Eligio Fernández, known as Tonel (Havana, Cuba, 1958). El Viaje (paredes que hablan) —The Journey (walls that talk) — his latest solo show in the Cuban capital, reaffirms the hallmark of an astute thinker who contributes and subverts, indicates and questions, parodies and extols.
With careful curating in all of its conceptual and museographical details —as a result of collaboration between the artist and Factoría Habana’s director, Concha Fontenla— the exhibit suggested a journey from the individual body, male or female, to the body of the nation, the global, the cosmic. On this journey, the artist’s visual arsenal was synthesized, using pieces from the 1990s to the present. Above all, it demonstrated that while Tonel’s work is sometimes morphologically versatile, it also has a very unique hallmark that is expressed in his deconstruction and reconstruction of reality based on each element that he chooses to represent that reality. In this process, a close and often surreptitious dialogue is always latent with the Cuban national context in relation to the universal context.
Moreover, the curators conceived of each piece as an individual “station,” with each given its own space for establishing a territory of dialogue and concentration for and with the visitor, obviating any linear type of trajectory. A “journey” through the exhibition was done organically and independently, without any chronological or thematic determining factor. As someone who thinks about the human race and its principal concerns and projections, Tonel was presented as a sort of geographer who studies everything related to the world as inhabited by humanity. Likewise, the curators used the dimensions of his pieces in a way so that their relationship to scale is always to the point.
*A shorter version of this article was published in Noticias de ArteCubano No. 1, 2013.