Fabelo and his delicatessen

/ 8 June, 2015

The Havana seawall promenade (Malecon) dresses up by these days of biennial from its intervention by Cuban and foreign artists invited to participate in the project Detrás del Muro (Behind the Wall) II. The dialogue the curator of the exhibition, Juan Delgado, has wanted to establish between young and established artists stands out within the list of creators, which includes visual arts masters such as Roberto Fabelo and Manuel Mendive, both winners of the National Plastic Arts Award.

Precisely Roberto Fabelo (Camagüey, 1950), whom we remembered in the last edition of this collateral sample displaying his red lion coming out of the water, on this occasion presents a piece that is part of his traditional agenda. It is almost impossible for those who are more related to the art world touring the Malecón and not to identify Delicatessen as a piece of his own. The artist uses his usual distinctive poetics in an installation that is part of his eponymous series, in which he has been working for several years, using the same motifs in different manifestations and means: sculpture, drawing, oil on wood and mixed on metal. On it he visually reiterates containers used to eat -dishes, jars, pots and forks- in a happy union; the latter often embedded in these fantastic creatures of Fabelo´s imaginary world, which either refers to Dante Alighieri´s Divine Comedy, than to the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez.

This time, with such poetics with which he works the work presented in the collateral exhibition Zona Franca, he overemphasizes a black cauldron and inserts innumerable forks on it that cover all its dimensions. He continues making use of ordinary objects of everyday life to form his works. From that recycling he subsequently intervenes them and sometimes exaggerates them, as in Delicatessen; where he proposes a big cauldron of three meters in diameter and about two and a half tall, from which he addresses the issue of the struggle for survival as a local and also global problem.

With a highly ironic title, beyond the exquisite manufacture of the piece and that we may experience from its making great aesthetic pleasure, there is nothing delicate conceptually; because through it, Fabelo called attention to a worldwide problem that is currently affecting humanity. Hunger is one of the evils that afflict the world and fully aware of this, the artist exploits the capabilities that art has to speak from that area and using for this certain tropes, and sharp issues at human and social level. In contrast to the idea that the term delicatessen suggests, such cauldron, far from becoming receptacle of exquisite and finely crafted high-quality food products, is presented as a Pandora’s Box, which actually was an amphora or jarr, containing one of the many ills that affect humanity. Its empty inner, symbol of famine, is reinforced by the intervention of many forks with food cravings, after which, things suffering a basic need: to eat, have been omitted. As a subtle metaphor of the situation that millions of people suffer on the planet, that installation, from the objects used by the artist -cauldron and forks-, connects very clearly with this problem.

We can trace this matter in his artistic production since back in the eighties of the last century; in his series Fragmentos vitales he began to represent his mutilated and tied characters, within jars, as symbols of hunger and hardship; or when later in 2003 he addressed such topic in his installative proposal entitled La mesa . With Delicatessen, three decades after Fragmentos vitals, he gives continuity to that theme, although now in a particularly unpopulated piece of his fictional beings, hypertrophied and masked.

Located at the Malecón, Fabelo´s cauldron resembles a sea urchin out of the water carrying forks as mobile spines. With an attractive visuality, it is a piece that encourages interaction and direct confrontation with the public. Hence, it is very common to see the passerby to approach the work and try to touch the forks, getting amazed by so much care and attention to its placement and especially by the size of the artwork. It’s a stunning cauldron, overwhelming in comparison with human scale, and it is very well inserted in the Malecón Avenue. Its dimensions respond not only to where it is located, but -in addition to be part of the artist’s work style-, conceptually speaks to us of the size of the issue covered.

Master of drawing and painting, Roberto Fabelo has also amply demonstrated to dominate three-dimensionality. His participation in the 12th Biennial of Havana confirms his infinite qualities as an artist, inexhaustible as his poetics, always attractive and possessing a singular charm.

Julienne López Hernández

Julienne López Hernández

La Habana (1989). Licenciada en Historia del Arte por la Universidad de La Habana. Desde el 2012 trabaja como docente en el Departamento de Estudios Teóricos y Sociales de la Cultura de la Facultad de Artes y Letras de la Universidad de La Habana. Ha colaborado sobre temas de artes visuales cubano, latinoamericano y caribeño en publicaciones como Artecubano y el Boletín Noticias de Artecubano, y en sitios web y catálogos personales de artistas cubanos contemporáneos.

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