A New Fourth Batter in the Lineup

/ 8 March, 2014

Undoubtedly Rafael Domenech (1989) has taken great pains in following Arthur Rimbaud’s advice “let’s be as greedy as the sea.” (…) After graduating from the San Alejandro Academy in Havana, Rafael decided to move to Florida when still very young, barely 20 years old. Just six months after his arrival, he had held two solo exhibitions in West Palm Beach, which can be considered a good average.

(…) The museography of Middle Ground (the second of the abovementioned exhibitions) was very thorough. (…) With Middle Ground, Domenech continues a line he had previously developed in his exhibitions in Havana. Scratch, graffiti,1 and his habit of writing unfinished slogans lead him close to Basquiat and to Cuban art of the 1980s. (…)After this exhibition, his life in the United States began to be defined: when awarded with a painting scholarship, which he still holds, at the New World School of Arts in Florida, Rafael began to delve into the “secrets” of watercolor, in exquisitely resolved scale models, and in replacing canvas for cardboard. The world of design that surrounded him everywhere began to influence the poetics of this artist, who started a stage of formal search full of hybrids, where his old marks coexist with new visual information of the context (…).

(…) In November 2013, Rafael Domenech opened his solo exhibition, Symplectic Structures 2 at the gallery of the New World School of Arts in Florida. It included a series of collages and sculptures he made with materials he found and collect: plastic boxes, clear acrylic, tape, pieces of cardboard… Rafael is confiscating the form from reality, as if stroke, clipping and line were the only legitimate elements. And he does it with incredible elegance. Whatever he does, the extreme rigor of his craftsmanship is the basis of all subsequent speculation. From his previous series, Bunkers, he took the idea of building, stripped it of its cultural referents, and focused on the origin, design and engineering; on geometry, to be exact.

(…) This new series can be associated with Russian constructivism and faktura, as well as with very specific works of American and Cuban abstraction, but there is something very attractive and, I suppose, new in all this: Rafael ignores the notion of usefulness, of ideological pragmatism and – most importantly – shows that, in geometry, it may be possible to linger and contemplate. That is always guaranteed in his works. He is no longer on middle ground, or on life in the hyphen, nor does he have any other concern than the creative process. Now he is in art itself.

  1. The big walls he built in San Alejandro, the Center for the Development of Visual Arts and for the sample Ya sé leer (Now I Can Read), all in Havana, are proof.
  2. There is another one coming, a duet with María Martínez-Canas: exquisite collages based on photographs by the artist.


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