An Accumulation of the Everyday in Fors’s Works
José Manuel Fors is a poet of the physical world, a collector of bits and pieces, scraps and memories. Even when his work is not at its most potent, as in his current show at Couturier Gallery, it still exerts a soulful pull.
Fallen Leaves is the title of the show and one chits installations, but it is also an apt metaphor for the photographs Fors uses –tokens of life turned into brittle, brown memories. In the most understated and affecting of the works here, Las Ventanas (The windows), Fors mounts more than 300 photographs, small as postage stamps, in neat rows along one long wall of the gallery.
Toned in nostalgic browns and with marks of abrasion that push them deep into the past, the pictures coalesce into a diary of memories: family scenes, posed portraits, but also fragments of leaves and trees, a ball of yarn, the slats of a fence, a feather, an eye. Each is, indeed, a tiny window, framing a view of both the external world and internal experience.
In the central installation, Hojarascas (Fallen leaves), Fors places 18 vitrines in three rows on the floor, each plastic box filled with dried leaves and, typically, a tied bundle of yellowed papers and pictures, topped by an object –a doll’s head, a cracked plate, an old metal keepsake box. The combinations seem unusually forced for Fors, but the work has an elegiac edge. Passing through the rows feels much like wandering among tombs.
In his last show here, Fors presented a spectacular, giant wall-mounted blossom built petal by petal from his toned and manipulated photographs (their size a solution, initially, to the shortage of photographic materials in his native Cuba)
Here he retains the same format, with all of its radiant ebullience, but replaces the photographs of small, ordinary things with the things themselves. El círculo: los objetos (The circle: the objects) is a diary too, a record of the humble things one touches over time –the buttons, coins, toys, shells, jar lids, paper clips, keys and bottle tops.
There’s something tender about Fors’s devotion to such mundane matter, his elevation of the inconsequential. But most of the objects verge on the generic, so the assemblage as a whole carries less of the deliciously bittersweet emotional weight of its counterpart in photographs.