Elso’s Apparitions

/ 2 October, 2014

(…) Taking into account that the available number of hitherto unheard (…) the surprising appearance of ten or twelve pieces by Juan Francisco Elso Padilla (Havana, 1956−1988) never seen before, or seen only by a reduced number of persons, is not only a rarity, but also − and I will explain why − a significant and important event. (…)
The finding took place in Havana itself, in the humble little house in Marianao where Elso lived with his family almost during his entire life. (…)
Those who have studied the Cuban art of the eighties, especially of that small group of artists who were part of the Volumen Uno (Volume One) exhibition − and which ended up capturing the credit of the entire decade − may rather clearly identify the general characteristics of Juan Francisco Elso’s works, (…)
To this we must add that his aesthetic assumptions might also be summarized as an attempt to make visible a Latin American spirituality where Middle American indigenous traditions and Afro Cuban religious tradition are present. Is it that simple? We must acknowledge that in Elso’s case we can make a very quick (and regrettable) synthesis because of the unfortunate conditions of his life and his work: Elso died when he was very young, barely 32 years old, so his time for creation was extremely short. In any case, he was not a very prolific creator either. And to this we should add that he was very nonconformist, that is, he felt compelled to destroy many works because of not being satisfied with their results. (Then, what could he have found in those Works to let them survive?) (…)
With our actions, selections, opinions, most researchers, critics, curators, collectors are used to reduce the variety and diversity of the artistic productions naturally present, to simplify their complexities, to turn the chaos into a cosmos. (…)
What I want to say is that it is not enough to know how artists are, or how we think they are, or how have they become thanks to our criteria, our approvals or rejections, our selections, but also how they were in other moments, which were their initial preferences, who were their old idols and, above all, how could their work have been if they hadn’t found that style now seeming to characterize them. I believe that this group of new, unknown, drawings and paintings will allow us to complete − retrospectively − the real image of the artist, although many of them do not reach the level his major works had. They are also Elso’s Works (…)



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