Toirac and the others

/ 1 September, 2018

A sententious poet once wrote “No man is an island.” And the verse became a sort of prophesy for José Ángel Toirac (Guantánamo, 1966). Born and living on the “island” of Cuba, that creator was able to choose the solitary work in front of the easel or the drawing board, in his home or studio. In fact, that’s how many of his contemporary colleagues carry out their work, without necessarily responding to the usual paradigm of the author confined in an ivory tower. And much less in these media times.

But Toirac decided to be a gregarious visual artist, like several who emerged in the mythical 1980s. His privileged workshop has been where many work, but each one strives on their individual work. His atelier par excellence has been the space of the school, the studio or the home where projects in favor of joint creation have been workshopped. It has been the place for the storming of ideas, the dissent and consensus of opinions, the community of artistic and expressive interests.

An early and perhaps little publicized group exercise was undertaken by Toirac around 1984 in the bulletin ¿Por qué?, produced by him and his fellow students of the 23 and C Elementary Art School in Havana with handcraft means. Published in short print runs and thanks to the mimeograph, this publishing project falls within the tradition of periodical publications made by artists who conveyed the aesthetic-artistic ideas of its creators through their designs and/or contents. It also anteceded the ephemeral 23 y C magazine, which originated in that same institution.

(…) In 1990 he carried out the controversial exhibition Homenaje a Hans Haacke, which was an homage to the poetics of that artist irreverent towards the institutions sponsoring his proposals.

The exhibition was part of the Castillo de la Fuerza Project, which aimed to establish a space for the discursive plurality of new artists from the Higher Institute of Art (ISA). It supported artistic self-management compared to the absolutism of institutional management. It encouraged dividing the artists into curators of the expositions, in strategic “alliance” with the head institution.

Toirac continued generating new projects in artistic or curatorial collaboration with other creators and/ or art historians: Tanya Angulo (binomio T&T), Ricardo G. Elías, Octavio César Marín, Alfredo Manzo, Meira Marrero (…) However, while he is used to creating as a team, Toirac has conserved his artistic personality, the poetics and methodology that identifies him. It doesn’t matter if he resorts to painting, video, installation or the object. His work is usually based on a documentary or field investigation that culminates in the location of figures or political events, the appropriation of images or texts, the giving of new meaning to historic or artistic documents.

His favorites include photographs and periodic publications, which are the “fourth power” and, like art, are very influential information and communication instruments. In sources like these he finds the material he dismantles and intervenes with a predominating no-color aesthetics (white, black, grey), a critical sense, irony and intellectual wittiness. However, the best way of understanding his artistic proposals demands that the receiver have references of the original context. (…)

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