In the impressive gallery of the Cultural Center of Spain in Miami, Latin Americans and Cubans who, as Néstor Arenas (Holguín, Cuba, 1964) consolidated their work during long years in the Iberian Peninsula, have frequently exhibited. It was there that Arenas recently presented his exhibition entitled Paisajes Transformers, third in the saga that includes a first show in Havana during the most recent Biennial, all of them curated by his compatriot, outstanding art critic Dennys Matos.
The contents on this stage of Néstor’s work have been focused in developing proposals on how to artistically manage, with a future vision, the rubbish (ruins, ghosts, objects of consumption of yesterday and sphinxes; superheroes and architectures of the past, and so on) left behind by some sociopolitical systems when disappearing. He has been specially focused on the most recent extinctions, those of real communism on the East of Europe and those of industrial capitalism, as well as the remains of the Cuban utopia, republican (neo colonial) and of the Cold War.
“With these materials I have developed my own ‘illustrated manual’ of how to recycle these fragments of the past, characters and remains of architecture, which are better defined as superheroes, and sculptures, to interact within my renewed landscapes. In the convergence I provoke, the architectonic sense gests lost, in favor of the sculptural one”.
(…) “I have not predilection for any particular hero, modern or contemporary; I feel myself attracted the same for Uncle Stiopa and Misha the Bear or by Betty Boop and Superman. Something similar happens to me—Néstor continues explaining—with the styles: the Soviet constructivism and productiveness, the Italian futurism, the neogothic, and so on, move me in the same way. It may be that I live in the age of fusion. I like the difficult task of integrating opposite poles which will function in an unexpected direction (…)”
Néstor glimpses the spaces he sketches as dioramas, where he affirms to develop his narrations. “Without leaving that the scenes there introduced belong only to one period, to a determined time, they should also be variable, interchangeable, susceptible to cohabit with other times and new iconographies, even implanted from post-communism and inside the postindustrial era which allows the insertion of that feeling that Germans today have baptized as Ostalgie[i]. In the three exhibitions the spectator has been able to see from backgrounds that virtually resemble theater curtains, reminding scale models to properly said models (…). Contexts and protagonists may settle at the same time in the past and in the present technological time, so therefore I consider what I do as transformers, something similar to a Lego system open to the future.”
The former explains the presence in this paintings of a collection of prevailing superheroes—Vegeta, Super Mario, Pokémon, Sponge Bob, Pikachu, Kagome, and so on. Néstor is a family man, calmed and very practical, a voluntary prisoner in his studio, who with neither fuss nor great intellectual hatch, with simplicity and Creole fantasy, lives the moment, also considering modern and innovative resources, the avant-garde appropriations in the field of art and his own artistic experimentation. He will not fail to acquire each figure of a superhero—vintage or contemporary—coming from the market, to immediately place it decorating his work environment, as if it were a toyshop, when it really becomes the shelf of his fetishes. (…)
[i] Ostalgie: acronym of the words ost (east) and nostalgie (nostalgia), used to refer the yearning for the former German Democratic Republic, whose style has extended in the entire world.