/ 10 June, 2013

El ladrón de las manos de seda (The Thief with the Silky Hands, Galería Habana, February-March 2013), the most recent solo exhibition by Eduardo Ponjuán González, was a return to production from1991 in which he used the poster technique as a discursive procedure and medium for painting. Some of his best-known works include: Utopía (1991), comprising six canvases featuring the six letters that form the word “utopia” in Russian, painted as if they were carpenter’s rules; and a series of neons: Arte cubano de los noventa (Cuban art of the 90s, 1991), Hecho a mano (Handmade, 1991), Hand made in Havana (1991), Arte cubano actual (Today’s Cuban Art, 1991), El neón llegó a La Habana (Neon has arrived in Havana, 1991), Post Neón (1991), Pinta el 92 (Paint ‘92, 1991), and Copias a color (Color copies, 1992).

In these works, the act of naming becomes a pictorial construction, which, in the case of Copias, stands out for its mimicry of neon in the middle of an island ravaged by 12-hour long power outages. Painted several times in an unusual serial originality, they have many elements of all-over painting, and although the use of trompe l’oeil is latent in Ponjuán’s effort to construct light, the paintings themselves were the protagonists. That is why the exhibition of their processes did not matter; what mattered was their allusion to the controversies that dominated the work of artists at that time: the presumed existence of a 1990s generation; the presence, or not, of an artistic vanguard in the nation after the exile of the 1980s generation; the use of techne as a valid option for facing the challenges of the incipient art market of the 90s; and the question of the place of Cubanness in the relationship between art and the market in the context of the island’s inside/outside trauma. These works were the preamble to a phenomenon that emerged in the 1990s and that has persisted until today: the coexistence of and displacement of political/revolutionary propaganda by the commercial-type publicity poster.

El ladrón de las manos de seda rechannels the flow of whispers that crisscrosses the whole contemporary audiovisual background. Virtual, mass media, literary and commercial phrases that come from revolutionary political propaganda and design produce an extraordinary effect of palimpsest. The messages are superimposed; they use and interrelate with each other, while the words and their meanings vibrate with the common currency of all acts of representation: making present something that is absent. The Writing of the Disaster (Maurice Blanchot), in which freedom of interpretation, as in Hebrew gematria, can give a text any meaning that one wishes. As part of this calculated game, Blanchot envisaged the dialectic that is established between language and writing. Ponjuán —like everyone else— is prevented from renouncing meaning; hence his increased capacity for being subject to the whims of error due to chance, time, history and the personal biography of each person. That is why the central role of the text, image and title in unison supports an ambivalent experience, where the spectator, as interpreter, chooses his or her movement toward uncertainty or certainty.

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