Pavel Acosta: Pillage as Aesthetic Reflection

/ 19 October, 2014

(…) Pavel Acosta’s proposal, where destruction and creation go hand in hand, is just halfway between a criaría Teresainal act and a work of art.

In 2008, Acosta began in Havana his series Pinturas robadas (Stolen Paintings). His initial motivation was economic: the lack of art materials he faced in the midst of the habitual crisis ravaging the Island. Acosta then took on robbery as a creative tactic. Armed with a spatula, the artist went into the streets in Havana, whose dilapidated buildings seem to spit out pieces of painting, and began to scrape off here and there the layers of painting he would later integrate on the canvas or the paper as collages. Although in this series the interest was directly associated with the scarcity of resources and the black market, there was also a marked interest in one of the binary structures supporting western and, specifically, Cuban society. I am referring to memory and oblivion.

(…)With Pavel Acosta’s arrival in New York in 2012 there was a new turn in his oeuvre. Although the context and original motivation to which Stolen Paintings gave rise to had disappeared, the impact of his first hand contact with vital works in art history activated in the artist a desire of appropriation that also ended in a sort of artistic pillage.

Stolen from the Met is the title of the first personal exhibition by Pavel Acosta in the United States. Exhibited in spring in the Zadok Gallery, in Miami, Wynwood District, it is a contribution to that line of inquiry into cultural memory – and lack of memory – obsessing the artist since early in his career. It was integrated by six works inspired in pieces by masters in the history of western art (Diego Velazquez, El Greco, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Johannes Vermeer, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh) whom the artist admired since a student and for the first time could see in a frank dialogue in his visit to the Metropolitan Art Museum (Met). (…)

Acosta takes pieces of walls and in a process of aggression – devastation of the wall – withdraws the immaculate coat of white plaster leaving the wood exposed. With residues of this destructive act, he then starts a process of reconstruction of the piece in question. Gradually, and as a result of this meticulous and cathartic act, these whitish specters trying to make us look “through” more than “on” the surface of the painting emerge little by little. (…)

Each of these western culture icons has been carefully recreated, respecting its dimension, the characteristics of the brushstrokes and, even, the molding in which it is exhibited today. Stripped from color, these strange murals propose an entirely different visualization of the pieces, while suggesting a questioning on their original meaning, the characters inhabiting them and the avatars unknown through time which have ended – whimsically – because of having them coexist in a same space. (…)

Stolen from the Met is also associated with access to culture. (…)

The act of pillage Acosta undertakes with these works answers first to that individual need of inquiring and rummaging – thus the need to scrape and look further away from the surface – and, then, to the desire of democratizing the oeuvre and making it accessible to others in this sort of phantasmagorical splitting now possible. (…)

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