Looking without being seen

/ 1 September, 2017

(…) I have been travelling to this seductive country for years and have tried to immerse myself into the most isolated and unusual places, wherever you could glimpse a spring of creativity. (…) Gabriel Sánchez Toledo (Cabaiguán, Cuba, 1979), majored in Fine Arts from the Escuela de Arte Samuel Feijóo (Villa Clara), is one of those cases I have been following for some time and his work has gradually evolved until finding its space. In a global world, where everything looks too much like everything, to accomplish your own identity sign is something fundamental. Normally artists try to look for it outside, but Gabriel’s trip to his inner self has had a surprising outcome, simply intimate and personal.

In a short period of time I have been able to visit two of his solo shows, so juxtaposed in its formal character and its procedure as in the distance that separates them. The first one at the Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales (Center for the Development of Visual Arts, CDAV), in La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) until May the 28th; the second one at QUAN, Center of International Art of Song Zhuang, Beijing, until June the 15th, 2017.

When I faced the work that Gabriel was presenting at the CDAV I was struck by all those worn-out adjectives that art critics often use when somebody leaves us astounded. I refuse to enumerate them… Well, just a few will not do any harm: I thought it was a courageous bet, daring, rupture-like and I would even dare to use the term “brazen”. Both in the presentation—five dozen papers flooded the space and took over the museology; indeed, work on paper, which was considered a minor genre but that has been magnified by all the great artists—as well as in the conceptualization of the work presented. It is not a preparatory work, nor a sketch, rather it is a firm wager for a pictorial reality assumed from the most intimate to be later exported as a joint visualization, as a whole. The “I” turns into “you” or rather “we”, forming a segmented but not partitioned whole.

The proposal at Song Zhuang, titled Dust and Fog, is like looking from the other side of the mirror, the reflection is enlarged and it turns pluperfect, the narrative essence remaining. Large pieces on canvas measuring 20 x 20 ft. that display the same strength and the same truth reflected on the papers, the same path.

When I entered the exhibition, my mind was set on the past, a pictorial work close to the abstract landscape. Landscape is part of his DNA: Since he was a small child he used to watch his mother, the prestigious landscapist Ania Toledo, for hours. His academic formation is based on the prestigious Cuban pictorial school, having as referent a generation with forceful poetics like those of Tomás Sánchez, Zaida del Río, Roberto Fabelo, Nelson Domínguez and Pedro Pablo Oliva. When I entered the CDAV I received a surprising image, the space was filled up of black papers that had a force and skill only attained by the greats, and the figurative abstraction almost expressionist that persisted in GST had disappeared completely.

(…) I am disposed to assure, without any apprehension, that Gabriel Sánchez Toledo is one of those artists who learned how to look without being seen, to explore themselves without any complex in order to be able to convey afterwards, that truth that each of their works offer us.

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