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Lágrimas Negras

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Photography in quicksand, in frank contempt of conventions. Provocative images that connect in a common narrative, alluding to the loss and fragmentation of memory. Stories triggered in the transgression of meta-narratives, deriving arbitrary and personal codes. The public and the intimate stamp a cross-border concert of  La Grimas Negras (Black Tears). 

The well-known bolero of Miguel Matamoros limits other people's chronicles. Subversive in its claim to violate the continuum of everyday events. Five artists who meet after the license conferred by their digital or analogue recording devices, to radiate their obsessions, and plot concomitant schemes. Speculative maneuvers where the exemption takes place - timeless or definitive - of an illusory region that each one of them thought he had conquered and today can only see from silence and light.

Nadal Antelmo, Willy Castellanos, Rogelio López Marín / Gory, Ana Olema and Mel Rossitch try to filter the collected sediments in their retina’s. Oblique, discordant glances, that dive into the narrow path of those "episodes of reality", where hunting could be considered a feat. Warps of an undivided fabric that includes identity, sociological, erotic, political or environmental inquiries anchored in a more or less obvious designation of origin.  

László Moholy-Nagy, considered a pioneer of the new photography, predicted that "The illiterate of the future will not be inexperienced in writing but ignorant of photography." Since the end of the last century, vertiginous advances in digital technologies have exponentially democratized the use of photography in all orders of human existence. We are addicted to a kind of aesthetic consumerism and the tyranny of the images becomes an irresistible form of intellectual contamination: structuring a concrete grammar that  articulates the handling of certain codes could bridge the distance between reality and art.

For some years now, a controversial term has entered the equation: post-photography. According to Joan Fontcuberta, the term appeals to the need for a new visual regime in the face of excessive oversaturation and the massification of the use of Internet, mobile devices and social networks. In this way, the visual creator and curator proposes a new ecology of images that is based on recovering and critically recycling existing material, giving it new meaning and significance. In front of the "prosumers" of an "elven dance" and "reflectographic" an ethical reaction as a mechanism of "resistance" that is based on the discrediting of the naturalistic representation of the camera, displacing the traditional territories of photographic use.  In that iconosphere where "we inhabit the image and the image inhabits us" it becomes imperative to recover some sovereignty, urgently decipher the malleable, and mutant condition, with which the images to articulate thought and action.

Nadal Antelmo / Nadalito (Cárdenas, 1968) is an artist of contempt and permutations. Unprejudiced and experimental, he has developed an atypical work in the contemporary scene, managing to reinstate, from an original perspective, preterified practices of a sociological foundation. The participatory component structures the basis of its thematic transitions. Nadal plunges into the contexts he dissects, orchestrating a playful promiscuity that blurs the traditional boundaries between actor, producer and editor of "certified documents." A predator that symbolically "owns" its members by activating the contextual anchors of a subverted script.  

Self-taught, very early showed an exceptional capacity in the harmonious processing between the contentious and the formal. Intuitive in the inflection of its plots, it has managed to expediently record “uncomfortable” areas, where the intimate, public, ethical and the ideological converge. Considered a maker of “conceptualized realities” he has developed an infallible historicity that takes advantage of the technological tools without purism or prejudices: coatings, graphics, fissures, and overlays, intermingle in the licentious use of those who at all costs, seek to give us a emotional blow. Nadal also formalizes a particular use of full color. A management that was unprecedented in the insular panorama of the moment, reluctant to detach itself - with few exceptions - from certain "comfort zones" set in black and white. The polychromatic film is established in the artist's execution, opening a heterogeneous path of possibilities. 

100 Cuban family portraits recover the strategies deployed in networks between 2007 and 2010. All carried out in the residence of its protagonists, it is a prototypical panorama that dives into everyday life. The ordinary biased by the vulnerability of shoes being reissued on top of the head. Semillas (2012) remains in a fabulous terrain between the utopia of renewal and the improbability of harvest, a row of figures are impelled to germinate as the only element of salvation. On the other hand, El Mirón II (2018) and Erotic Story (2003) are related to breaking the norm with erogenous connotations of public sign. In both pieces, origins of an accomplice ritual are pressed, permissive contents are sublimated in the conception of the photographic framing.

Perception (2018) and Gotas de Miami (2019) are created in a new location. The syllables of elliptical narratives that Nadal created in 2003 as an unprecedented and deconstructive technique based on the iconic reverberation of a word that is now cemented in a new language - English - which was adopted as a second language. They also mutate the emblematic images of their new environment at the moment atomized after the relevance of the raindrops. Areas gained from the swamp that water "claims" to be, is stubborn crying. 

A cross-sectional look at the work of Willy Castellanos (Havana, 1959) shows enforceability on the recurring fondness for overflowing the apparent limit of things. In this way, he builds mental objects that compile and seek “evidence” of certain orders that the artist violates. His curatorial essay and investigative work, subscribe to a vocation for probing issues related to the relations between urbanism and society, where the practices in use and their contexts determine disturbing and worrying expressions. This is the search for first-hand testimonials of scenarios that remain in fragile balance and where in some way, excessive predation and imposition prevail.  

Art historian, curator and self-taught photographer, Castellanos worked in Cuba as a free-lance for various magazines, and then settled in Buenos Aires displaying creative work as a teacher and photojournalist. In 2001 he moved to Miami, where he intensified his curatorial, editorial and photographic work. Ten years later he founded - along with curator Adriana Herrera - Aluna Art Foundation seeking to promote artistic practices that question the hegemonic. It’s a platform in which he dedicated a space to the Focus Locus project, which deals with the diffusion of contemporary photography.

“Return to Koyaanisqatsi” is the collective in which Willy designates the series relating to his recent tours of the junk yards in Miami. Photographs, manipulated found objects, and  reconverted scenes that comment on the approach to  fix environmental problems. It is more about “focusing” on one of the issues that could define the sustainability of the human condition, as we understand it today. Using the word Hopi which means "life without balance", and absorbing the spirit of Geodfrey Reggio's film, “Regreso”, rehearses a convergence of artistic mediums. The pieces constitute memento, not only alluding to the fleetingness of life, but the short-lived products as well. A universal extended model of "garbage city".  

As an eccentric cartography, all the pieces have been made for Lagrimas Negras, (Black Tears), unfolds formal strategies of a linear and coherent discourse that is relevant in the exhibition. According to this logic, Willy proposes several pieces: the old radiators of the Zoom-In Global Warming | Radiators, hieratic behind magnifying glasses which relics the misguidance of their original cooling function; while the The Large Cumulus speaks about the profusion of waste. The Pac-Man Sushi, detail huge pressed packages of scrap metal. Parallel to this dissecting record, the artist collects objects - mildly altered - that are "autonomous". Assisted Ready-Made and Disposable Object, are stacked in Countdown to zero, reminiscent of the time we have on this earth if we continue to practice our current waste management.

Rogelio López Marín / Gory (Havana, 1953) could be considered the reverse in which he looks at, the dream of a real dream. Transferring his work from the works of the poet Hernández Novás, his photographs seem to be anchored to the edge of an infinite and confusing piélago, slowed down in traces where absence and the invisible are reconciled. For Gory, life is in that other part diluted just above the horizon line, in a furtive gust that traps the nostalgia of an inescapable mental wreck.  

Graduating from the National School of Art (ENA), with further studies in Art History at the University of Havana, Gory early developed a hyperrealist painting with strong influence from the pop-art movement and American realism. However, after his unfinished piece for a mechanical painter, (included in the mythical exhibition Volume I), he renounces the idea of immersing himself in a photographic work that refuses the axiomatic relationship, along with, the direct documentary reference, to violate reality from the intimate redoubt of personal memory.

Subjectivities exclude the individual to gloat in the astonishing eloquence among the silence of inanimate objects. Later series such as, “It's just water in the tear of a stranger” (1986) or “1836-1936-1984” (1987), where the poetic text becomes fermented to an itinerary detonated from springs deeply anchored in the border between reality and mirage. This work of environments, projected from skepticism, seeks to transpose isolation into a material census of unusual configurations, is then noticed in its series of North American landscapes, such as, “Because of the City”, made during the beginning of the two thousand in New York. This work documents the bland and surreal bias of the metropolis, framing the merciless dissolution of time in a space that is spared from the epiphany.  

Ana Olema (Holguin, 1986) declares herself a project artist, whose symbolic production seeks to analyze the nature of the Individual-State relationship. Essentially, it carries out political and social design projects, based on associations of unconventional ideas that seek to  present alternative histories, and predict the near future. It also develops operations that are placed in what the artist designates as relationships, manifested through ‘installation infographics (infoinstallations) or‘ sculptural infographics ’(info sculptures); or through praxiological abstraction,(patterns and forms that come from human action and not from the will of the artist).

Between 2005 and 2007, Ana joined the Art of Conduct Chair, a pedagogical project developed by Tania Bruguera in Havana for a little less than a decade, while attending the University of Media at the University of the Arts (ISA ). Hence, his vocation for the creative and critical exercise of different fields of knowledge. Info-activist and television producers have shown a furious interest in implementing an ideological transformation on the civic initiatives in their environment. It is a “mobilization” that starts from art, but it transcends conventional symbolic representation, prioritizing its immersion in belligerent areas of society and promoting a “dissenting survey” in the relations between art and context. 
“The Longest Night” (2019) is a 90 x 58 inch print ​of collaged pages containing “classifieds”. The sheet collects fifty-eight advertisements found within articles written in newspapers in Miami and South Florida on December 31, 1958; which covered the coming to power of Fidel Castro. A "unique page" of advertisements that circumscribes a unified dimension of space and time in a newspaper that was recounting the event from the point of view of the most impacted place after Cuba; Miami. The newspaper uses a distinctive element of the capitalist system: marketing.

The proposal atomizes the linear understanding of the historical account, plunging into a universe of appropriate and assembled images, allegorically fertile. The intrinsic cognitive power is thus triggered in the specific contents of the work, implanting a tangential way of assimilating the representational. Nietzsche teaches us every creative act is an authentic exercise of thought. In this case, it is a vehicle of resistance and recreation, very close to the principles generated in the contemporary praxis of recent decades and responding to the term “post-photographic”. 

The work of Mel Rossitch (Havana, 1968) could be defined as an introspective log, where bursts of mental archives are embodied in ephemeral and stimulating compendiums. It is about colonizing ancestral, atavistic experiences and in a certain sense, scrutinizing new ways of addressing familiar issues. In her attempt to discern demarcations where she stalks the hermetic and the recondite, Rossitch manufactures melancholic objects, through which she fantasizes, arranging them as testimonial evidence of the scene of a crime.

Architect by profession, Mel Rossith has been mired in the atlas of Cuban artistic production for over twenty years. The personal and professional bond with one of her most visible actors probably made her relegate his own creative desires in order to enhance the effective positioning exercise of “the other”. But, the greed of a restless and persistent temperament end up emerging in some way, and in the vortex of the conjunctures, Mel surprises with an immersion in the field of photography, from where a gender reflection has been bashed.  

With the Confession Secrets Series (2017), she seeks to immerse himself in the thorny terrain of the iconic. It puts transparent, perforated borders before the fugitive and ambiguous image. Not only is a material boundary established, but the very forms also invite promiscuous and polysemic decoding. In these “cloisters of intimacy" are protected secrets, buried in the representation of accessories, utensils, personal belongings, and instruments.  

According to Jasper Johns, photography is an object that comments on the loss, the disappearance of other objects. An object that can't speak for itself, but about others, even when it does not include them. Through the photographic, we become eyewitnesses of the intangible. Any axiomatic argument held by the images of Lasmigras Negras (Black Tears) could be undermined by the plurality of meanings that each of them implies. That impermanence where the aesthetic and the symbolism covers the controversy between the analgesic and the stimulant. In the end, it is simply more salt water at the bolero.

Isabel María Pérez Pérez
Miami, 2019

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