Like (prizewinning) water for chocolate

/ 1 March, 2018

In late 2017, the National Prize for Visual Arts was awarded to Eduardo Roca Salazar, an artist extensively known in the Cuban cultural field since his beginnings in the 1970s, and which led him to form part of that generation “of the true hope” in which Nelson Domínguez, Pedro Pablo Oliva, Roberto Fabelo, Zaida del Río, Ernesto García Peña, Gilberto Frómeta, among others (…).

More than 40 years of intense work have allowed him to carry out a diverse two-dimensional work although, essentially, his greatest achievements and recognitions, and his legitimacy in and outside of Cuba have been with engraving. If through a work we would decipher, even discover, the artist that produces it, in the case of Eduardo Roca Salazar (Choco or Chocolate, as he is well-known in the territories of Cuban contemporary art) it isn’t easy. To the simplicity and clarity of many of his pieces (…) other more complex and dense works are juxtaposed, like the case of the collagraphs, which he has vigorously developed and enhanced in recent years due to the great variety of materials and mediums he uses in them, and to the diversity of colors, lines and forms he enjoys in his process of creation (…).

Those works transit between dualities (…) and subtle ambivalences in meanings, and in them one observes a delicate expression of figurative ascendance in which faces and hands call the tune. However, in his recent sculptures and objects, even his installations, he resorts to different universes since he points more to creating atmospheres of color and textures of great material density above any other intention.

(…) Established in his studio on Sol Street, in Old Havana, since the 1990s (…) he is surprised (…) with the wealth of languages and lifestyles that surround him in that intense urban microworld. Since then, his spirit gets restless and excited while he works there, and he lets the wealth of his ancestors who centuries ago arrived to this island penetrate him: thus his approach to such deities as Elegguá, Ochún, Our Lady of Charity, Our Lady of Regla, Changó, which he expresses through a pictorial synthesis and an austere figuration. Despite so much formal simplicity at moments, he did not allow the lyrical abstraction, refined and non- geometric, to become the center of his work. (…).

His body of professors from the former National Art School of Cubanacán, in the 1960s, inculcated in him that universal, ecumenical way of appreciating the world, of perceiving creative gestures and actions of any great talent on the planet and alien to all notion of fashion or tendency favored by the art market.

(…) Thus he projects, without intending to and spontaneously, a familiar, affable image of a common man, close to that of many artists of the Cuban avant-gardes, some of whom he got to know and even celebrate around a cup of coffee.

(…) He has a wide smile that he expresses with his big teeth and his enormous mouth. And he keeps in his head very clear accounts to underline that popular and old saying that proclaims: chocolate…the thicker the better it is.

Nelson Herrera Ysla

Nelson Herrera Ysla

Art critic, curator, poet. He is co-founder of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center and of the Havana Biennial, an event he led from 1999 to 2001, and where he is currently curator. He has lectured in numerous countries and published numerous critical texts in specialized publications of Cuba and abroad. General Curator of the XVI Paiz Biennial of Guatemala, 2008. Essay Jury of the Casa de las Américas Prize, 2005, and international art events in Latin America. National Award for Arts Criticism Guy Pérez Cisneros, 2007, and National Prize for Curators 2013, both in Cuba.

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