Instances of the Limit

/ 25 November, 2016

Interested in what is existential, transcendental, essential… the work by Alfredo Sarabia (Jr.), (Havana, 1986) stands out in the Cuban visual arts context by, from photography, dealing with the meeting point between the binary opposites, proposed by Lévi- Strauss structuralist anthropology.

Photography has flowed in his work in an organic way. First, it comes by the genes, those inherited from his father, Alfredo Sarabia Domínguez (Havana, 1951 – Mérida, 1992), who made him transcend in an already iconic image in Cuban photography: at the malecón, he hardly was two years old. However, Sarabia (Jr.) studied Painting in the San Alejandro Fine Arts Academy. At the time, photography was for him a tool to document or complete his work. Later he studied in the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), and then the medium became the final result. He was a student, among others, of Gonzalo González Borges (Gonzo), Félix Arencibia and Juan Carlos Alom.

Currently his work is considered among the most peculiar within the photography made in the island. But what is more coherent is precisely that, following his conceptual instinct, this artistic expression which mimetically captures the environment and documents it with testimonial nature, with its components of veracity and reliability, was for Sarabia the suitable operation to exhibit those fragments of reality which prefigure a line, whether physical or metaphorical, between what is trivial and extraordinary, between what is real and supra-terrain.

From the semiotic point of view, this limit is very evident in the framing and, from the semantic point of view, his images entail a conceptual depth supported in the study of the different cognitive categories associated to existence. That is why his work frequently resorts to biblical quotes, above all because of the transcendental character they provide for human existence.

(…) Sarabia attends to flashy and polysemic signs and always inquires in their several association levels, with the purpose of diagraming more suggestively the circumstance. Once and again he brings together the historical and the mythological, in metaphors and visual constructions which part from realities where, in occasions—so as not to say frequently—no sense is found. This marks a very personalized—honest, I think— perspective in his work, which he has developed with certain versatility.

His works already highlight because they are not too similar to others, in a world where photography is hegemonic and in a flashy context, so many times revisited, reread and portrayed by all. There is, also, something fundamental ratifying the authenticity of this medium as contemporary visual arts expression: the way in which it lets Sarabia to express his need to see far beyond from the immediate, for analyzing and understanding what is significant, what generates tension as condition for the balance of existence; the way it allows him to be placed in that imperceptible and prodigal zone where what is contradictory and what is immanent incite him to draw the limit between dualities, between the light and the darkness.

Onedys Calvo

Onedys Calvo

She holds a master’s degree in Art History. Lives and works in Havana. She is a curator with the City Historian’s Office and contributes to various specialized publications, such as Artecubano, Revolución y Cultura and OPUS Habana. She also contributes to the radio station Habana Radio as a journalist, and is the director of the Center for Interpretation of Cuba-Europe Relations, Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Havana.

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