On the shores of the impressive Bay of San Francisco sits a magnificent space for contemporary art, designed to provide an intimate environment for viewing and learning about photography. It is Pier 24, where the Fundación Pilara’s permanent photography collection is on display.
The work of José Manuel Fors has become part of this collection. Perhaps it is because this Cuban’s art is among the most unusual and seductive in his country. The roots and development of his work are fundamentally in Havana, also around a bay, but one which looks out at the Caribbean Sea. And while that is not a direct referent in his pieces, they are pieces that are enveloped in an infinite ocean of reminiscence and associations. This preference is also probably based on the fact that Fors is much more than a photographer, and enjoys that deep, complex quality that makes him a contemporary Renaissance man, an irremediably postmodern seducer.
However, this is not the attitude of someone who is seeking the spectacular and grandiloquent. His works are more like snippets and shreds, which at a given moment radiate the view of the artist, who, with certain indifference, seems to have piled them into a furtive corner of a dark room. Later he recuperates them, as if unwinding the skein of a sensorial, private labyrinth, unembarrassed by transmutations or contamination. Just as he manipulates the camera’s diaphragm and speed, or prepares a set for taking photos, he uses found images and images deliberately created by others, manipulates old and new negatives, rephotographs, veils, recontextualizes, and superimposes. All of these “quotes” blur his individual DNA, and endless new associations are regenerated, very much in harmony with a postmodern esthetic of sorts immersed in the introspective, but not in the strictly personal or private; rather, it is a chain of suggestions rooted in experiences that are close and at the same time collective.
The fascination that Fors’s work holds for us probably stems from the temporal unreality that his pieces provoke, that ability to capture the brevity of an instant right at the moment that it escapes us. The commanding silence of Pier 24, its atmosphere of exterior salt residue and its suggestive nautical lighting will all serve as a complement to the hundreds of unfindable and unread inscriptions that have crossed an entire continent to go from one ocean to another and then remain there, beyond time.