Friday, April 17, 2009

Single Drops: To Magnify Uniqueness

“Third Hand,” a set of 50 ink drawings by Cuban artist Diango Hernández—evolving out of his interest in the Polish artist Andrzej Wróblewski (1927-1957)—will be at Alexander and Bonin Gallery through May 2, 2009. Addressing the sense of deformity, the installation’s drawing series references one of Wróblewski’s drawings in which there is a man with a third arm protruding from his back. Handmade “mass production,” each one of the 50 drawings is a copy of the previous—done on pages torn from a 1940s German ledger book. Each is rendered unique by drops of water serving to dissolve the strict repetition of the series.

Wróblewski, one of Poland’s most prominent artists in the post-WWII era, had his education and artistic training interrupted by the brutal German occupation in which only underground courses were available to him. Having created a highly suggestive approach to figurative painting that was very individualistic, Wróblewski rebelled against the dominant colorist style and used unique spacial forms. Furthermore, he experimented in oil paintings and gouaches, created works under the influence of artists like Fougeron and the Mexican muralists, and remained open to such tendencies as Surrealism. His previously mentioned figurative formula was one in which figures were disfigured and injured with grotesque forms. Wróblewski ‘s works detailing events during the German occupation of Poland—such as executions rendered in spare, precise compositions—are exceptional for their intensity of feeling. As Stalinism and Communist orthodoxy in the Soviet bloc cast a chilling situation in the late 1940s, Wróblewski towed the official line of Socialist Realism with works cast in a darker palette—though closer to traditional realism. After Stalin’s death in 1953 and relaxation of official strictures, Wróblewski reverted back to his original approach to painting in the mid-1950s and carried on in this vein until his tragic accidental death in 1957.

Coming out of a parallel authoritarian system, Hernández was drawn to Wróblewski because, in him, he saw a “person confused and affected by a political system: confused because I no longer know how to judge the system that formed me, but at the same time deformed me.” Hernández places the ambiguity of this symbolism within his own context of growing up in Cuba. The artist states: “I don’t wonder what will happen to the political mistakes, because the mistakes are obviously mistakes that are always ready to recur again and again in different guises.” Magnifying the avenue of uniqueness in “Third Hand,” Hernández asserts that the challenge for individuals will be to become single drops.

In the 1990s, Hernández started an extended series of drawings which processed the political and economical crisis of Cuba after the collapse of the socialist systems in Eastern Europe. Such drawings functioned as a kind of political diary in which artists could transform everyday objects into utopian configurations. Hernández came to call his entire practice “drawing,” whether he meant a complex installation, a sculpture, or an accidental trace on a piece of paper. German art historian Anke Kempkes related the iconography of Diango Hernández to the narrative inventions of Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, who rejected the “pointless” imagination of the Surrealists for their aloofness from reality. Carpentier—known for his Baroque writing style and conception of “lo real maravilloso” (marvelous reality)—was a key influence on writers Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, and Isabel Allende. Broadly, “lo real maravilloso” holds that magical elements or illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic or even "normal" setting. Besides literature, this idea has been influential in film and the work of such artists as Hernández.

In 1994, Diango Hernández co-founded Ordo Amoris Cabinet in Cuba: a group of artists and designers who focused on invented solutions for home design objects to compensate for shortages of materials and goods. (Due to privations and the lack of art supplies in occupied Poland during WWII, Wróblewski practiced the art of woodcut from 1944-1946.) Having moved to Europe in 2003, Hernández currently lives and works in Düsseldorf. Exhibited at the Bienales of Venice, Sydney, and São Paulo, the work of Diango Hernández has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Kunsthalle, Basel in 2006, and in 2007 at the Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen.

TH-INK by Diango Hernández

Alexander & Bonin

through May 2, 2009

132 Tenth Avenue between 18th & 19th Streets, NYC 10011

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