Yoan Capote, a young Cuban visual artist who came to international notice in the 2001 Havana Biennial, creates paradoxical images with political and psychological overtones. In sculptures and beautifully crafted academic drawings (all 2004), he merges human organs with inanimate objects, rearranges the human body and reinvents the purposes of everyday things.
Most poignant here was a sculpture entitled Nostalgia and an accompanying drawing. Both present an ordinary suitcase unzipped to reveal a wall of bricks. The metaphor is clear wanderlust thwarted by insurmountable barriers. But there is also a secondary reading, suggesting that we carry our impediments with us.
The other works are similarly multilayered. In Love presents a pair of identical, foot-high, polished-wood boxes fanning open at an angle. In a manner reminiscent of Brancusi’s Kiss, a carved wooden cord that joins them enhances the somewhat autoerotic nature of their association. It resembles the tissue that connected the original Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng, but here also carries a suggestion of sexual penetration.
The phallus reappears in Racional, a classically sculpted male torso (presented both as an approximately 2 feet high plaster sculpture and a 60 by 40 inches drawing) in which the genital area sprouts a human brain. The title seems ironic; perhaps referring to the oft-cited notion that a man’s sexual organ has a mind of its own. On the other hand, one might also read it as a commentary on the tempering of irrational urges, or the hard won battle of the mind over animal instinct.
Another kind of battle is suggested by Casados I. This sculpture contains three elements: a man’s brown leather wingtip shoe, a woman’s brown leather sandal and a strange conflation of the two in which a wingtip and a sandal appear to have been joined at the toes and then stretched apart so that the span between them resembles a piece of pulled taffy. The conjunction suggests forced inseparability or perhaps the tug of war between the sexes.
Capote’s work is both thought provoking and humorous. He brings to mind the absurdist impossibilities of Rene Magritte, overlaid with a sense of nostalgia for physical experience in an increasingly digital world.