Pedro Pablo OlivaViajeros, 2013
Bronze sculpture, 63 x 51 x 18 cm.
The Reverence of that Heavenly Prince
Contemporary art has rendered writings and efforts to its gods in exchange for the secret of abstraction. It pleads for the possibility to transmute into image the ambiguity of thought. It has tried it all, leaving behind a string of visual apothems. Conceptualism is the right artistic strategy to meet these urgencies: more than just the representation of the world, art thinks and digests it in a fruitful act of violence. Cold, distant and almost artificial icons of glass and smoke, salt words that time has not been able to (dis) atomize. And suddenly, amid much derision and effort breaks the figure of a sweet and noble bird migrating with lightweight, as a crew, two sleeping passengers. It is a lyrical conceptualism, expressionist more accurately, which proposes candor and flow: the act of capturing an idea and its early release. The work of Pedro Pablo Oliva Viajeros (Travelers) is all that and more: a fertile artistic gesture of rational abstraction.
Oliva taps into the subject of migration, almost axiomatic in his artistic proposal. Now strips out of pathos or melodramatic background that clenches to this matter of strong imprint in Cuban society since the nineties. This time is migration as the travel experience. And for this he clings to a visual and narrative tradition diluted and incorporated in uncontrollable ways. The bird burden on its back the tender bodies of two magical beings that like guajiros have been baptized. Though an illusion, the half-closed eyes and the pleasure of sleep, are protected by the eve of the conveyor, a noble bird that carries the signs of its principality. A slight foreshortening builds the basic structure of this sculpture, and condenses the path of a heightened poetic turn.
Then the theme has been treated rather than as narrative, as a concept. Oliva develops it from several levels of meaning. The bird as fundamental vehicle, owner of regular and migratory enterprises, refers to the natural character of this social phenomenon. The direct allusion to that passage recorded in the Gospel of Matthew concerning the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt works as the historical and spiritual legitimating, too. Finally, the high lyricism of the artistic representation reinstates the elusive and empirical content associated with migration, transit and travel, disengaging it of all those tragic meanings attributed to it. It is a sort of semantic reconstruction of what the travel and migrant status involve.
In addition to developing an abstract concept in the immediacy of an image, Oliva orchestrates other springs like the insular identity. In the sculptural representation, faithful to issues of very personal style in Pedro Pablo, underlies the taste of a fantastic vision of reality and therefore its translation into a surreal image essence. The liveliness of these wonderful beings that he has erected as central characters, the unnatural features of their faces and limbs and the bronzed flesh that gives them a birdlike gesture, make of this image a kind of fable. This cosmic pair, Adam and Eve in the countryside, seem to sum up the signs of our collective nature in the trip. Beyond the stereotypes and bombastic official discourse of history with its myths and strategies, our island has been built from the exodus. And then, the bird, celestial prince, with the reverence of its body in tight foreshortening repeats the silhouette of this navigator island in which we circle around the world.
Pedro Pablo Oliva flirts with basic concepts for the treatment of national identity and intertwines it as a poet in a mythical image. Western culture has its historical origins legitimated by centuries of affirmative culture and global evangelization. It is time to rebuild our truths from their invariable, natural and therefore more intimate elements.
–Luis Enrique Padrón