Since the beginning, the work of the Cuban young artist Mabel Poblet has a very distinctive mark within the plastic arts current scene of the island: I’m referring to the style that characterizes her creations, based on silk screen printing on tiny fragments of transparent acetate plates, and their subsequent manual assembly using numerous patterns of holes with small nails. Also, her process relies on the use of a standard image which modular repetition constitutes the final represented motif, like a large puzzle with installative bias. And all this, plus the resulting effects of shadows, reflections and transparencies within the field of vision, give certain craftsmanship and exclusive touch to her poetics, which is enormously enjoyable and becomes at the same time a considerable sign of value, especially if we take into account the pronounced youth of the author.
Meanwhile, in the artist’s works standout visible and repeated references to her most private everyday life and experience, to her most deepest and evasive “self,” either by allusions to different sort of conflicts: family relations, generational, professional, love, geographical, etc., or through more philosophical and metaphysical reflections regarding her experience of “to be” in the world. That is without mentioning the most obvious and explicit self-reference: her own physical image who is almost always present as the represented model, usually juxtaposing and comparing her physiognomy as child and as adult, which produces an interesting dialogue between these two basic narrative stages.
Let’s take a very illustrative example of the previous. In a 2005’s piece (Sin título –Untitled–), the author would present to us the photographic negatives of her parent’s wedding that were already divorced by then. In this case, art acts as a space where utopias of something unlikely, of something vehemently longed-for, can be revive. The aesthetic universe becomes the palliative or mitigating factor for severe lacks, for nostalgia that systematically and persistently emerges. The artistic fiction turns into a mediator agent that opens up links with the past in order to make the present more pleasant and bearable, even if it’s only on an idyllic and unreal level. A metaphorical attempt of deceiving the inexorable passage of Time, of taking backs its structure and rewrites the dynamics and dictates of fate.
For Time is a factor that constitutes a constant concern in Mabel’s work. In a series like Ábacos (Abaci) –which took part of the homonymous exhibition displayed on Havana’s ICAIC Cinematographic Cultural Center, in 2007–, the measuring and calculation of movement and temporary mutations are exposed from sharpened philosophical considerations, which show a categorical lucidity and clarity. Designed for direct interaction with the audience, some of the pieces of this project acted as “work in progress,” changing in appearance and meaning according to the multiple interventions of the spectators (or of the creator herself). Her house at Cienfuegos Province (where the artist was born), her grandfather, her couple at the time, her own age, they all become objects of reflections, from the absolute conscience of the fragility and anguish derived from our finite existence in the universe. For Mabel, Time represents an obstacle difficult to overcome, that perennial enemy which makes us null, and against which, all actions are pointless, innocuous. All we have left is the exorcism of our powerlessness, the scream of resignation and the bubble of fantasy that allows us to return to the amnion.
Other subjects that has concerned the artist are related to different symbolic-emotional gradations and nuances of the kissing act (La diferencia de un beso –The difference of a kiss–), as well as to the analysis of dreams from the memories of their protagonists, through incorporation of allusive texts to the subconscious reminiscences and superimposed on the photographic images of the individuals chosen by the lens. The components of fiction or fantasy in such linguistic symbols, their possible distancing or distortion with regard to what was dreamed in each case, favour an environment of doubt (of suspicion), which turns out to be very pleasant, at least for the subscriber.
In some cases, the attention goes to parabolas related to the concepts of pyramidal energy and the conservation of the matter. Basically, I think of works as Un día como otro cualquiera (A day like any other day), Alteridad (Otherness) and S-T (U-T), all three of them from 2008. The last one makes a call to reciprocity and balance of the human relationships, social relationships; to the need of more fair, limpid, altruistic interpersonal bonds. It’s a citing to philanthropy as life philosophy and practice, as inseparable action of the human condition. “To give” and “to receive” as gestures which spiritual essences must be preserved at all costs, for the sake and future of our specie. Amid the violence and so many civic catastrophes of our days, and in view of the dehumanization and degradation of values that experiences the contemporary individual on a world scale, a proposal like this ends up being of considerable humility and modesty. For those who are more rancid and “scientific” (those who see in the transparency of basic emotions a plague to be avoid), this could be a “slushy” piece of work, full of kitsch. Poor people those who won’t allow themselves the privilege of one tear! Instead, for me, this is a noble piece that bet for the minimal, tiny gesture, yet no less deep and solid. In those hands bursting with light and kindness, in that transmutation of energy and love, probably hides the secret of human redemption, of a world more bounteous and fair.
One of the artist’s most recent series, entitled Imagen, no palabra (Image, no word), has some significant linguistic and semantic turns. Firstly, the speech here becomes more universal and plurivocal, less tied to self-reference problems. The little photographs of the author as a child are replaced this time by dispersed and unconnected letters without generating any word, and which incoherence of meaning contrasts with the clarity and legibility of the image in its whole. You can also start to see, in an incipient form, some tendencies toward the universe of pop art, especially in regards with the use of color and the chosen motifs to be represented. The “chaos” brought by the jumble of off-centre graphs, and the communicative strength of the image in each case, highlights the significance of the works by opposition, more than by analogy.
Finally, the creator is at this moment immersed in thematic areas of strong aggressiveness and drama, with pieces where the color red becomes protagonist. Broadly speaking, the project consists of close-ups of legs, arms, faces… with an effect similar to that of the photographic negative, and which theatricalism and histrionics of the poses lets us speak about certain “aestheticizing of the tragic” or “beautification of the disastrous.” The presence of a sharp object as the scissors, together with the characteristics of the strengthened chromatic range, lead to suspense’s insinuations alluding to physical violence and death. Concerns related to the human lack of communication are also shown in some cases, self-imposed silence, and the power of speech, among other issues where women are always the centres of meditation.
I therefore, explicitly express my bet for this young representative of contemporary Cuban art, completely convinced of her successfully and prominent future. The breach is open, and there is plenty of talent. Today’s youth knows its place and mission in this complex millennium’s beginning. They walk purposefully beyond “factions” and “fashion.” Their struggle is individual, and their telos, extremely dystopian and rhizomatic. The great “stories” annoy them; they care only a little or don’t care at all about the fate of an island or its art. To work with the utmost severity may be their only premise, without looking at the road’s sides. They don’t want to go to the psychiatrist. Lazarus and his emancipation’s utopias are repellent and unworkable to them.
Havana, March 2011