Iván CapoteHappiness, 2008 - 2011
Wood, rubber erasers, graphite, glass and heavy paper, 54.5 x 56.5 cm. each one
Happiness (2011), by Cuban contemporary artist Iván Capote, is inscribed within the aesthetical, morphological, and aesthetical premises that have defined almost the total of this author’s creation. You will certainly remember this piece if you attended the famous bipersonal exhibition of the brothers Yoán and Iván Capote, which title was Fonemas y Morfemas (Phonemes and morphemes), at the Galería Habana in 2012, or if you had the opportunity to go through the pages of the resulting catalogue.
Happiness is structured in two parts. It is about some sort of wooden boxes sealed with glass, resembling glass cabinets. In the first one, the word Happiness is written with graphite on a number of erasers arranged in a vertical position. The second has inside a white cardboard in which we discover the almost imperceptible graphic prints of the term Gloom, for the word that was previously written, with graphite, was suppressed by an eraser.
As it is common in Iván Capote’s work, the center of the work is the use of language, specifically that of the word with a sign function and provided with physical existence as plastic image, to establish relationships among its concepts, meanings, and referential universes. Therefore, we can immediately identify the influences of conceptualism in this proposal. However, language is not the only constitutive material here, for the piece is conditioned by the physical nature and function of other materials and objects chosen by the artist: erasers and graphite.
We are witnessing, hence, an antonymic pair of words –happiness and gloom–, and we have the difficult task of finding the possible semantic connections between two completely contrary concepts. In this point, the construction of the piece, as well as the materiality –or the lack of it– with which Iván embodies the words, acquire a key role. It is in these elements that we can find the key to articulate the antonyms’ sense projections and, consequently, to decode the work’s message in communicative terms.
Happiness is written with graphite on eraser, probably the same erasers that were previously used to make the Word gloom disappear. This is, undoubtedly, very significant, as well as the fact that only after having deleted this last word, it is possible to write happiness. In a metaphorical plane, this can be translated into a conceptualization of happiness as a state that depends directly on our ability to overcome the past, to defeat obstacles, to forget what gets us down and manage to prevent what affects us from continuing doing it…
In this sense, there should be an attention call on the symbolic function of the material in which the word is embodied, such a crucial significant as it is the linguistic sign itself, which supposes that happiness is based on our attitude to overcome difficulties and go beyond despondency, melancholy. The tool we use to annul mood that consumes us is the same one that becomes a support to create a contrary vital state: our will, our faith.
As a result, it is clear that the work states that happiness is not precisely an abstract construction that exists independent from our subjectivity, instead it can be consolidated by us.
With Happiness, Iván Capote highlights the need of contrary concepts for the existence of sense elaborations to which words remit us. At the same time, he expounds on his ability to load the pieces with a playful sense and a sharp irony, since not only the words are opposing –contrary and complementary?–, but also the materials: one annuls the other. These are the possible notion and reflection on happiness stated in Happiness, which are, by the way, quite relevant.