Hand in hand, lovers stroll along the Malecon. The rolling sea crashes onto the rocks under the romantic Cuban sky with the wild beat of Latin American music floating across from the open windows of the nearby buildings. The change comes quickly – black clouds approach and the sea heaves as the wind blows the clouds inland, the waves of the winter storm becoming higher and higher, until they are crashing over the walls of the Malecon itself.
As an island, Cuba has an intimate relationship with the sea around it; on the one hand it provides romance, food, and employment, even a risky opportunity to escape across the 90 miles to Florida; one the other hand it is threatening and dangerous. The Morro Castle was built to protect Havana against invasion and winter storms and hurricanes approach from the sea while fishing itself can be hazardous – Ernest Hemmingway’s famous book “The Old Man and the Sea” tells the story of the Cuban fisherman Santiago struggling with a giant marlin off the coast of Florida.
The Cuban artist Yoan Capote (b 1977) is known for his work which merges a variety of materials – found objects, everyday items and human organs – into works which question conventional human perceptions, often exploring themes from his own country which are found elsewhere in the world.
Capote “creates paradoxical images with political and psychological overtones. In sculptures and beautifully crafted academic drawings, he rearranges the human body and reinvents the purposes of everyday things… Capote’s work is both thought provoking and humorous. He brings to mind the absurdist impossibilities of Rene Magritte, overlaid with a sense of nostalgia for physical experience in an increasingly digital world.” (Eleanor Heartney in “Art of America” 2006)
There has been a good selection of contemporary Latin American art in London this month with Alicia Bastos ‘s pop up exhibition of Brazilian art, Fernando Casasempres’ “A Death” and Venezuelan artist Cipriano Martinez’s paintings and rugs in collaboration with Vanderhurd. While Martinez’s focuses on chaos and order in urban development, Capote investigates the changing moods of the sea in his series “Isla” at Ben Brown Fine Arts with his paintings which use fish hooks and wire, some still having blood on them, as wave formations.
The 12 paintings are arranged around one vanishing point reinforcing the depth and distance of the sea and hinting at a world beyond, which has been the ambition and achievement of many Cubans though often remaining hooked by emotional and psychological ties to their homeland. Capote’s skill is such that the waves of the ever-changing seas – the calm and the stormy, the light and the dark, the optimistic and the fearful – appear to move with the tide and the wind in front of the viewer’s eyes.