More than thirty years after his first personal exhibition, José Manuel Fors (Havana, 1956) breaks into the Cuban art scene again, this time, as 2016 National Plastic Arts Award’s winner. The exhibition will take place this December 22 in the Cuban Art building of the National Museum of Fine Arts under the name Palimpsesto.
Even from his beginnings, the artist, who belonged to the legendary show Volumen I (Volume I), glimpsed an artistic language debtor of the most innovative movements not only in the arena of Cuban art, but of the world. With the use of aesthetic-conceptual resources from minimalism, (post) conceptualism, and installation, Fors consolidated a poetics based on formal experimentation –interacting with the most dissimilar materials, forms and textures–; and the prolongation of them as metaphors of time, memory, and knowledge. Hojarasca (Fallen leaves, 1981), a piece that was part of the exhibition Trece artistas jóvenes (Thirteen young artists), and its later reinterpretation Acumulaciones (Accumulations, 1983), already announced the artist’s interest in approaching a much more diaphanous dialogue around formal and conceptual specifications wielded in the middle until then.
Palimpsest perpetuates such premises and reveals the consolidation of the artistic career of José Manuel Fors. The sense of accumulation put into practice since his early works is, once again, an example of anthropological and archaeological worth, coming from the role of paper as an ancestral support of all kinds of wisdom, history and memory. Maybe that is why Fors separates himself this time from the rooted photographer in him, because in the constant search for information as a source of knowledge, the memory is built like files with a certain dose of chaos. In this way, Palimpsest is composed. This piece is the key element in the show, and as such it organizes and configures practically all the exhibition space. Simulating a large accumulation, the artist has around 10 meters long overlays of all types of manuscripts, prints, sheets. The work, which gives title to the exhibition, seeks to undermine topics inherent to the aesthetic-conceptual processes of Fors’s artistic career. Once again, the artist refers to memory as an (n)ever-ending process. Hence, the agglomeration of different layers of paper leads us to a reflective constant of the artist: memory –its processes– are composed of phases, cycles that are interspersed and make up a history, the History.
From the lezamian reminiscence posed by the title itself, Sedosas pausas intermedias (Silky intermediate pauses) intends a different approach to the format and its aesthetic-symbolic qualities. Through the technique of decollage, Fors undoes the form and obtains several surfaces that, with a certain abstractionist will, organize textures and gestures. This revaluation of paper through an infinite cycle of regeneration brings us closer to this supra-sensitivity of the artist, as he approaches the analysis of experiential processes, their circularity, their provision to repeat themselves, necessarily, in time and space.
Palimpsest incorporates other recognizable works from Fors’s previous productions, with paper as a leitmotif in all of them. The large formats, the austere monumentality of each one of the deployments in the space, will keep making him an debtor of an absolute minimalism and conceptualism, with the idea of foreseeing1 ability of the object in narrating the intellectual, and inevitably, existential criteria.
–Modesto D. Serpa
1. The original word in Spanish is hipertélico. It’s a neologism created by the Cuban writer José Lezama Lima, and it’s composed by the prefix hyper (superior, above average) and thelos (end, ultimate), both of Greek origin.