Agustín BejaranoUntitled, from the series Imágenes en el tiempo, 2002
Charcoal on cardboard, 150 x 200 cm.
[…] In 2001, the piece Imágenes en el tiempo III was shown by The Elkon Gallery of New York in the exhibition La belleza y la fuerza. This canvas belonged to the series of the same name that Bejarano had begun in 1997 and retaken the same year of the New York show. Martí emerge again in Agustín Bejarano’s discourse with unstoppable strength, assumed from a position that different form what had previously been made in painting and engraving. If in the beginning his illusions to the Apostle has stopped in his imaginary, in the political figure that he was and in the citizen with whom the artist had “shared” his intimacy, now he was the hero that was being born anew from a praising glance of the sacred and epic, through the praise of his exceptional spirituality. The metaphor acquired a greater tropological height in the handling of the mythic stature of the man who has given his own myth enough reasons to exist.
All that Bejarano has done up to that moment was consciously filtered until turning in into a heritage within this series. The plastic resources allowed the draftsman to be seen at certain moments, but the painter in the modeling of his figuration obtained the greatest echo […].
[…] Bejarano established in his series a critical distance with the conventions of heroic portraits. The various Martí that inhabited his works did not belong in pedestals. He avoided solemnity to recreate in the affection toward the man that history has hardened, driving him away from the common man. The artist animated in these portraits a painting that meditated on his ideas, a sensibility, and ethics: those of a unique (not perfect), paradigmatic man, given to the practice of sacrifice, justice, love and tenderness. A man devoted to the liberation of his country, concerned at the same time with the destiny of America, with ideas that were valid for all of mankind. A man who was always above his loneliness, his anguish and the physical fragility of his body. Bejarano sought to achieve images of that so peculiar man that would transcend the local reference. He achieved it in a way that was similar to the strategy suggested by Marguerite Yourcenar, who had stated: “One takes the place of the evoked one; one is then in the face of a unique reality, the reality of that man, at that moment, in that place, and following that direction one reaches the human and universal elements better.
In Imágenes del tiempo, all the usual requirements for the representation of his historical personalities were omitted. It was the essence of the figure and not the physical resemblance with the character that was essential. The body was many times fragmented to support the symbolic element. Bejarano recreated particularly the tropological thickness that made it possible to achieve Martí’s exceptional spirituality, while he praised his own visions of the Apostle. He pointed to the immanence of his visionary and illuminating ideas and to his actions. That is why many time he turned him into the winged being, the equivalence of the messenger, the anticipator, the guide, with the strength of a hummingbird steady in the flowing of time. For that reason his figure appeared on scaffolds and ladders, halfway between dreams and the harshness of reality, between the utopias and the journey required to make them come true. Martí as a sculptor of thought, a traveller with the force of the wing against him. That big hand of his was also there, the instrument of the maker, of the giver. His body is soil. The body is the fountain.
Memory –the one that germinates, as Cintio Vitier would phrase it– was the subterfuge and part of the process through which Bejarano brought him back again. That was how each one of those Martí was a segment of the story of his image, made of a substance that endures time that vividly exceeds it […]. 1
1. Caridad Blanco, “Agustín Bejarano, The rain of days,” in Agustín Bejarano, Obras 1987 – 2000 (Havana: Artecubano Ediciones, 2006), 164.