Yoan Capote’s artwork unfolds within a generational tendency in which mental cleverness and the light joke of artistic proposals on the command of the métier, the splendid mind or inquiry have often prevailed. Where the somewhat naïf arrangement and cheeky purloining –which is not postmodern pastiche– were and remain common practice, such as the proliferation of slide shows, testimony of procedural and ephemeral actions, which appeared to define an era.
However, this young artist has managed to dodge all complacency, which teased him and has done otherwise. Not just because he is skillful, but also because he is virtuous above all: mentally and craftily speaking. This conjunction gives him an enormous advantage.
His trajectory has varied from a poetic based on the implementation of artifacts –a word not to my liking, but applicable– which propitiated and demanded the complicity of our sensations1 and reflections from an interaction which he coined ready-made of the action,2 to the exploration of thought in schizoid structure, those mental conditions typical of contemporary societies which the artist resolved by resorting to design. He would thus unfold, let’s say, a more effective and convincing cycle, even though, paradoxically, the public’s participation was more contemplative than in his earlier phase of artistic production.
Capote’s work subsists under constant tension where everything seems to indicate seduction, in addition to the métier, resides. I am certain that his work is anti-modern in the sense that he avoids all theoretical notions and constructions of Modernity, or, at least, shreds them. I am referring to the confirmation of identity as fiction, to nomadism, to mental bifurcations, to anti-binarisms and to the rhizomatic character of his proposals. In the same way that Hamlet cried out that time was out of joint, Yoan warns us about mental, and, consequently, conductible and object-sensibility de-centering. Accordingly, his works prompt hybrid prototypes.
But he does not discard the sculptural object and much less that Renaissance notion of design which designated composition. Here, because it becomes modern, I speak of a certain tense elasticity in his work. In other words, the sculptures settle in space and transcend us in time. There is that strictly modern megalomania prolonging itself in and through his creations, propitiated by the spectrum of materials used, from concrete to bronze, to marble, iron, etc. Versatile visual exercises which function in or outside the gallery space, something difficult to achieve for other artists.
At the same time, the artist turns to the body, something so pre-occidental and anti-signifier, to represent mental dispersion in the Occident. From within, another interesting fruition develops, one that implies the ego versus corpus, ego versus alter or, in José Ortega y Gasset’s words, “absorption and alteration” as the fate of the contemporary being. “The Ortega’s concept of alteration has the accuracy to signify, from a single blow, a psychic state such as otherness.”3
According to the Spanish theoretician, when “man feels lost, drowned amongst things,”4 we can speak of alteration. A man lost amongst things is a man without identity, a mass-man a la Ortega, or, to use Toni Negri’s term, a multitude; although they are not identical concepts.
Collapsed amongst things, lost in them, means that man has mixed with the referent has become confused and evanesced. Here is the quid in Yoan Capote’s work. Nothing more, nothing less. This is the reason for him becoming an atypical portraitist.5
Collective experience has marked him in such a way that he began abandoning somewhat humoristic incursions around sex and marketing, not as visceral or autobiographical as was the case with Louise Bourgeois, but with significant notions on the body-sensation relationship in order to give way to a stylized and consistent hybrid. Less narrative and more compact. Like an incorruptible mass, even though, because of current times, fragmented.
Paranoia could be thus explained, not just as a portrayal of actual photographed profiles which avoid something vague in the work, but rather as an allegory of contemporary life style; a perverse refinement of entangled walls which swarm America, or from the railings of balconies and terraces that change insular urbanism; or, paranoia as origin of control.
For every work, Capote treats each human body fragment with dissimilar materials –including the possibility for the coexistence of two materials within one piece: bronze and concrete, for example– as if he wanted, in sum, to find a certain lost identity: testicles and the brain in Racional (Rational), teeth in Stress, ears in Retrato de masa (lote) (Mass portrait (lot), bones in Autorretrato (cada uno de nosotros) (Self-portrait (each one of us), the brain in the impressive mock-up Open Mind. One could argue that he attempts to restore a certain misplaced order, to rehabilitate through a mixture, which grants his pieces a captive and attractive visuality.
On the other hand, in all of his works, Yoan appears more of a sculptor even though his drawings-sketches are equally virtuous. In addition to design becoming more purified and protagonistic, he investigates the use of raw materials, seduced not only by Brancusi, as it is known, but also by contemporary British sculpture.6 Not with standing, his work is not lineal. There is no fundamentalist commitment to the medium or to subject matter to deal with in his works; he is no addict to tendencies that align one to trends, and, consequently, is far away from reiteration, from exhausting a topic over and over again, either formally or conceptually. He dispenses with all of that. And research plays a fundamental role in making him come and go without prejudice, without looking, a priori, for a style or label. From Tracc Bakk Track to Psicomorfosis, his trajectory has been sinuous, rhizomatic, removed from formulas. The non-existence of recipes gives him complete freedom.
One of the most interesting topics in his poetics is that his pieces derive from “real” portrayals, or better said, his raw materials have their biographies, which constitute rare “technical” records of people who suddenly become anonymous. As a result, Capote becomes a documentalist who rejects objectivity in representation, or an anthropologist who abandons the solemnity of epic-communitarian rituals to give us a special group portrayal. Modern, anti-modern, incredulous of taxonomies. He is rationally aware that letters are conventions although the alphabet exists in the end.
1. A few years ago, from a text that I wrote on the non-pertinence of the Apolitical, a work by Wilfredo Prieto, to the logic of the Third Salon of Contemporary Cuban Art whose theme was simply on sensations, a curator from the Centre of Development for the Visual Arts confessed to me that the origin of that salon’s topic was based on Yoan Capote’s ULM-Smell Me solo exhibit carried out in 1999.
2. Darys Vázquez, “Yoan Capote: The Constant Mutation of Objects,” Artecubano, No. 2, 2005, 45.
3. Alexis Jardines, El cuerpo y lo otro (Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2004), 87.
4. José Ortega y Gasset, El hombre y la gente, 43.
5. Philosophically speaking, I think that the topic is could have been explained, but, at the same time, the artist’s obsession for the collective portrait could be explained through various reasons: his socialist education, communal student accommodations, his participation in the collective DUPP (Desde una Pragmática Pedagógica –From a Pragmatic Pedagogy) and his readings on philosophy and art history. It is no accident that he cites in one of his statements, for example, Terracotta Warriors in China from circa 210 BCE for the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s sepulcher, or the Cuban painter Mariano Rodriguez’s masses.
6. Anthony Gomleys and his iron or clay men as well as members of the so-called Young British Artists.