The enormous need for intellectual expression, nuanced by the freshness of a smile, serves as guiding strokes in Tonel’s drawings, whose real name is Antonio Eligio Fernández. Hence, the conceptual framework, the art of lines and a full humor in ploys have managed to position themselves in this creator’s work, who moreover moves successfully along the path of art criticism and exhibition curatorship.
History of Art provided him much training cognitively and stylistically for the appropriate use of words in the field of criticism, while laying the foundations to channel rightly his artistic concerns, his talent and his innate creativity.
Caricature and graphic humor for serial publications are among the first manifestations of his cunning. They are expressions that despite the passage of time do not become older in the artist’s hands, or before the viewer’s eyes. One can enjoy a sample of them within the large installation of drawings, which are part of his personal exhibition Ajústate al tema (Suit the theme) and displayed on the second floor of the Cuban Art Building at the National Museum of Fine Arts.
The proposal invites to a rendezvous in different times through the visuality endorsed by one of the most important artists in the landscape of contemporary Cuban art. Art-pieces listed between 1973 and 2018 overwhelms the Museum area, since December 6th until the end of February 2019. Thus, he who along with other artists opted for El objeto esculturado (The sculptured object) towards 1990, raising the conceptual viewpoint of “sculpture” by thinking about it in terms of being renewed from the projective stage, has got himself through, for the first time, a personal exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts.
Ajústate al tema appears to be, regarding its title, a demand for a conventional endeavor, fractured, marked by finitude and without pretensions of transcendence. However, Tonel is of a restless nature, an evader of doctrines, a free spirit that refuses to suit the theme; for any of them shall be incumbent upon him for igniting his reflections and enhancing a piece of his own.
Nevertheless, some constants or aesthetic and communicative resources distinctive of his poetry can be identified. Thus, self-representation, words, stories, irony, urban popular culture, questions about art itself, insular geography and connotations of what is national stemming from it, are some of those props that refer to his ideo-aesthetic universe. A universe ever embedded with humor, imagination and questions.
Then, a Labandera cubana (The Cuban Flag1) welcomes the exhibition, a 1994 drawing that predicts the ambiguity and the communion of solemn subjects with the everyday life environment, masterfully interwoven by the artist in much of his art production. The strategy is evident, in this particular, in the cleanliness provided by the female character for her patriotic symbol.
The National Museum of Fine Arts therefore dresses up, in a transition from one year to the next, with a proposal that acknowledges talent despite self-learning, which values ingenuity, and bets on intelligent humor, a channel for questions about reality, identity and the surrounding context. Tonel is therefore welcome for his inherent rebellion that prevents him from limiting his own horizon, which makes it impossible for him to suit the theme, as far as the artistic creation is concerned.
1. The critic has the intention to play on words “La bandera” (The Flag) and “Lavandera” (Laundress). There is a purpose in text easily understood by Spanish speaking persons. Both match in terms of pronunciation. The image appearing on the drawing is a Black woman washing. It is impossible to find similar match regarding the Spanish words in English.