Gustavo Acosta | ART OnCuba

Gustavo Acosta

Collective numbing or Architecture as the Measure of all things

/ 1 March, 2018

Protagoras’ famous Sophist phrase “Man is the measure of all things” is one of the most eminent – and at the same time gloomy – axioms of human existence. In the history of art, the Vitruvian man of Leonardo Da Vinci and The Modulor of Le Corbusier, are specifically imposed in relation to two essential archetypes. While the fist model, faithful to the renaissance ideal, incarnated the perfect proportions of the human body, in the case of the second, exponent of architectural rationalism, we are witness to an anthropomorphic scale applied to the architectural space, a humanist expression of the habitable space.

In the case of Gustavo Acosta (Havana, 1958), we could agree that the procedure takes place the other way around. Interested in having access to the human scale – increasingly inaccessible these days, Acosta surveys the architectural space, breaks it down, questions it, submitting it to dissimilar systems of analysis to, perhaps, gain access to the human. We are thus witness to a sort of urban archaeology where architecture becomes, I dare to affirm, the measure of all things.

Ever since Acosta’s earliest incursions, in which he explored architectural typologies (train stations, parks, amphitheaters) that were rundown or once in ruins, even his most recent series, Inventory of Omissions, the interest has always been the same: the unraveling of human nature based on the inhabited or seconded space.

(…) Located in the modern city, Inventory of Omissions, recently exhibited in the New York Thomas Jaeckel Gallery, rethinks the urban outline and the contemporary habitable space. The images of reference from dissimilar places (Havana, Miami, New York, Aleppo) have as a common factor the imminent sense of disaster where human beings look oppressed, exiled or definitively absent.

Inventory of Omissions imposes a fundamental historic referent that cannot be avoided: the rationalist functionalism of modern architecture. The movement which emerged in Europe precisely after the ravages of World War I, characterized by the formal simplification, the divestment of vacuous decorations as well as the incorporation of new materials like steel and reinforced concrete, the exponent of a new international style, and that soon, with the arrival to power of German nationalism, sees a great many of its exponents migrate, continuing their experimentations in other countries. It is not by chance that Acosta makes such different countries cohabitate. Aleppo – an essential counterpoint – becomes the symbol of contemporary displacement: one of the most highlighted problems of current society. (…)

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