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Alquiles splits his time working at his studio in Havana and his hometown of Jaruco, location of his 1992 one-man show The End. Since completing design studies (1992-1996), he has been experimenting with a wide variety of techniques often using scrap materials and metal and working with the rusting process that depends on the action of water. Uniting all of his pieces is a view that art is the creation of elementary relations. Collages, drippings, stains and graffiti communicate Aquiles’ emotional impact to viewers. His objects and images have a sense of frugalness about them as if everyday objects have been shaped, cut and pounded into yielding their maximum expressive content in a reverse reflection of official policies that discourage individual self-expression, an allegory of irony and rust. He transforms and manipulates the original objects to imbue them with different functions, sometimes as other objects and often as the human body.
Damián produces ecologies that turn against the erosion of all things rhetorical and authoritarian, ecologies whose nourishment comes from that buried breaking-up process induced by loss. The artist becomes a state of energy, providing the smelting temperatures for what is destroyed to become liquid in order to assume a new shape and become part of a new structure.
The tracks left by rust have been taken by the artist as the protagonist, replacing painting as a mode of expression. The imagination of this rust promotes a dialogue with its closest ally, time. Therefore, one could speak about the relationship of actual rust and the fictitious kind whereby objects recover their memories so spontaneously it becomes amazing.
Human beings are presently living in a time of their development where recycling of materials, and even of individual feelings, has become a determining accomplice for rational activity on our planet. For several years Aquiles has been “parasiting” recycling in its different forms, not so much with pain but as a parody, especially as he leaves the re-used materials intact, keeping their significance with the echoes of memories that can also be exploited and explored in each of his wooden or metal compositions. These bits and pieces of experience speak in words or silently and return to comment on the doubtful but essential fact of living. These commentaries let us hear a dialogue about the phenomenon of mutation and to what degree it moves around between the two controversial poles of Beauty and Cruelty.
Having been able to witness Aquiles’ work closely over many years and therefore keep an eye on his creative instincts, the most notable is his tireless kinetic quality that takes him in cycles to detect the substances of his work much before they arrive at their medium; his poetic spirit is ignited when the idea to be executed, his new mystery, frees itself from his mind and disperses into the minds of those who surround him, creating a whirlwind.
The artist’s skill takes objects away from their usefulness; he manipulates them until they seem to be disguised in their new function. Some of his works represent multitudes of objects or persons—he has a true gift for composition, showing the delightful possibilities of dialogue between equal and different elements.
Recently, he has been focusing on some figures that hang pitifully, which after having been engendered from a crisis of subjectivity, went through the rough boiler-making process. The metal letters from words such as silence, space, time, fall, ruins, dreams and shadows are anchored to spheres and cubes whose completely hollowed innards once again speak about space. These works are relatively small, but his greater ambition is to see a huge cube. Damián will make his appearance at the Havana Biennale with his gigantic cube, allowing the public to consider the possibilities of multiple interpretations.
The artist has held one-man shows in Cuba, New York and San Francisco and participated in numerous group exhibitions in Havana, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Miami, New York, New Orleans, Nicaragua, Istanbul, Berne (Switzerland) and at the Venice Biennial.
May 2015 This article formed part of the May 2015 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.
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