by Aldo Menéndez
The end of World War II concluded the model of separation between the utilitarian poster and the artistic one. A division deeply rooted in the United States began to be adopted everywhere; the characteristics of the functional claims of Bauhaus are seated before the psychedelic Rock posters with integrated typographies like in Art Nouveau and Dada, in correspondence with very personal styles (remember Lautrec, Mucha and Picabia among others). This is how, within the extraordinary decade of the 60s, a sort of poster/painting perplexity was established, as Pierre Cabanne calls it. Then, many Pop artists from the ranks of advertising were integrated into a world marked by the Neo-Dada, which settled in highly developed societies incorporating the iconography of art, painting, images of brands and objects of consumption.
There are artists like Jorge Rodríguez Diez (Havana, 1969) better known as R-10, who, in the moment life gives them the proper perspective to analyze events buried within the collective memory, shoulder the role of archeologist, to unearth and interact with testimonies from the past. This is also brought to a head because, there exists two stellar moments in our graphic arts; the one left to us at the beginning of the 20th century (1900-1933), the era of illustrators, and another starring design—particularly the poster—since the seizure of power by the Revolution in 1959, which extended to the Congress of Education and Culture in 1971; largely forgotten for many years, overshadowed by paintings and politics. Although all things considered, no artistic movement or political system has managed to condemn ostracism forever, which reappears again and again.
It is impossible to write about the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, without highlighting the role that graphic design, drawing, photography and engraving continued to play in Cuba—after 1972—as nutrients of the so-called major arts. Henceforth, the following tendencies entered and assimilated on the island, emerging in the great western metropolises such as Pop, Photorealism (hyperrealism), and the extensions of Pop itself, reflected an accentuated preference for graphic formulas—even our conceptualism behaved thus—making recognizable within them that kind of quality which came to occupy close-ups. Keeping in mind the tremendous influence of the Polish cultural poster, which like its Japanese equivalent had a profound impact on Cuba; due to how cultural expressions allowed their creators a greater imaginative freedom and, at the same time, open to new techniques and graphic resources. A trajectory that even today allows artists of R10’s stature to appear, intent on reinterpreting historical discourses, making their codes interact with the technological and psychological realities of the present or facing frustrations, inadequacies and gaps that affect their fellow citizens of today.
They are messages and dusty icons that find new purpose when participating in the work of R10. Today, as it is already known, even the most indomitable thing of yesterday is susceptible to being manipulated or freely quoted within the visual arts. Post-modernity abruptly opened all sources; making the reflection, appropriation and recycling of this field, cease to be capital sins.
Jorge Rodríguez Diez, carries that transgressive attitude much farther than many of his predecessors; taking initial levels of the propaganda from the Cuban Revolution, to make true visual engineering; submitting in his experimental laboratory a surpassed milestone in contact with a narrative in progress. A few virtually extinct representations are made to respond as silhouettes in shadow before symbols that have been recycled. Unearthed and living metaphors of different utopias are coupled by R-10 to a landscape with the just essentials, almost schematic but satiated with aesthetic pleasure and parody. Part of that enjoyment is due to the use of color that is softly projected without piercing, contrasting lights and shadows with cold tonalities.
The artistic poetry of Jorge Rodríguez Diez, from the view of design, is problematized with the social dilemmas that surround the present, but only by freeing oneself from professional practice, deprived of the weight of the commission, of the practical (utilitarian) and the precise message, will your products become more and more like painting. “Retro” enters the scene in his work, motivating satire and humor, immediately put in line by the viewer. The “Vintage,” in the form of commercial advertising, activates the ambiguity through simulated commercials where certain expectations of the informed observer end up translating into a rough mixture or suggesting in their minds contradictions, inducing the most diverse relations with local and international reality. The works of R-10 are those that seek to impose themselves only once, although they incorporate headpieces, guidance in the form of small letters and a climate of uncertainty, because generally they result in a field sown with their patterns, slogans and instructions. A precise and subtle individual mythology, operating with salvaged characteristics and tropes. A key contribution of Jorge is, without a doubt, is precisely that of delivering an image packaged as a game to assemble, but without a manual. Now, none of this can be adequately analyzed without coming into direct contact with his works because on the surface, there are sensory effects, finishes and textures that also connect with the original mediums from which commercial ads and political advertisements were born. Such semantic operations are created by R-10, as if he wanted to place a mask on each symbol and thus force his interpretation as much as possible, even to the environments he conceives, he gives an emblematic character to which he attributes a situational role, which guides the viewer in the direction of a certain legendary scene.
There exists in him a predisposition for the enigmatic and complicated, while he makes the simplicity and austerity of the composition prevail, of the displayed effects and digital manipulations. His frugality is here, for me, the opposite, a reaction that he himself imposes to contradict the thousands of sharp aspects imposed on him by daily life in Cuba: exuberant to the point of dizziness, disgustingly surreal, of exhausting sensuousness, whose political mystique has been lost.
on view at Kendall Art Center.
The exhibition will continue until Mar 29, 2019