The City Translated

/ 1 December, 2018

Roberto Salas’ eye has an avidity bordering on voracity. The artist has frequently renovated himself and with iconic hunger has examined history, the body, ethnography and the city, like the major themes that make up his solid work. I have said in other texts about his engaging in the insular photographic visualization, and now I reaffirm it, that he is one of the country’s most rejuvenated photographers, despite his age, a creator that constantly experiments with new themes and techniques and who remains with dignity and activity among the most renowned Cuban photographers of last century and this century until now. (…)

Roberto Salas started creating, since the 1960s, an iconography that placed him, by his own right and talent, in the group of photo reporters who created what is called photography of the epic, the group of images of the first years of the Cuban Revolution. In 1994 there was a moment of rupture, a point of inflection in his work, when he very successfully made (and still makes) incursions into the body image. Our artist started creating a new imagery in which the naked body, of men and women, was linked to other themes like cigars, cockfights, nature and architecture, as direct metaphors of the universality of the body concept in art and life. In the interim he made the series Así somos los cubanos, of great ethnographic value, an essay of images about which the critique has not duly paid attention to.

(…)Havana always fascinated Roberto Salas, and that fascination materialized because of the city’s high symbolic value, since it is a city that charms many, locals as well as visitors, despite its state of neglect and urban decadence, of poverty reflected in the walls wounded by time, semi-ruined streets and unpainted facades, but always notable in its powerful scenic sense and in its mysterious enchantment as a living being. Those qualities served as incentive for a new stage of his work, with a greater presence of technical-digital resources, but no less important when judging his work in an evolutionary sense. (…)

And it is just that Salas has followed the contrary sense of the tendency of many photographers (locals and foreigners) who have concentrated on a trio of themes that already exhausts the taster: the houses in ruins, the old American cars and the curvy Cuban mulatto woman in sexy poses. Many books were published under that thematic triptych, of course, not always good books. Salas points to another perspective of daily life.

The images of streets, corners, the Malecón seaside wall, plazas, parks and above all of the colonial fortresses, are a surprise to the spectator familiarized with the artist’s work, since the innovation put into practice in them has little relationship with the previous stages of his work. Here, the combinations of colors and their contrasts, the textures and other optic experiments carried out over the original image of the black and white photo, create a new, strange and suggestive visualization. It is the artist resisting repetition, seeking new iconic horizons. (…)

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