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Those of us who have been following Mabel Poblet’s artistic trajectory from the beginning know she is talented and daring enough to constantly surpass our expectations. This why whenever I go to her shows, I feel something of a secret emotion making the artist-spectator encounter something truly special.
On this occasion, when she is opening her exhibition called Ciudad: Patria [City: Homeland] at UNEAC’s Villa Manuela Gallery for the 12th Havana Biennial, my emotions have multiplied. The artist has decided to be truly radical and with the accumulated energy that is the result of the creative path she has been following, she has created a seductive tension that reigns on the space she has made an intervention on, providing a mysterious dynamic that accompanies the viewer from start to finish.
From the moment I walk through the gallery’s doors, I become exposed to these sensations. Marea alta [High Tide] catches me unawares and I have only two options: to desist or to cross the verticality of the waters in which, today, sodium and other minerals have been replaced by symbolic elements. Far from diminishing in intensity, they are strengthened. At first, you feel kind of disoriented. You don’t know what to do. As your trust grows, moods undergo rapid changes until you reach a level of comfort, feeling relief and a sense of freshness.
I have mentioned sea and water because this is what this piece composed of small squares imitating photos or little mirrors, which are never short on producing reflections and hang from the ceiling to the floor by strings that form a dense, pliant curtain.
The first thing I interpreted from the show is what it told me: “If you want to know my real homeland, you have to cross this collective issue, this pain without which we can no longer conceive ourselves as a group. On the far shore, you will have new imprints on your skin, your heart slightly sad and your senses will be infinitely awakened.” The murmur that is created throughout the voyage spoke to me of a fractured body whose halves are yearning constantly for the reunion.
This brought me to the most conceptual part of the show—painted texts that have been imprinted on thick, transparent sheets. In front of those texts are twin artifacts, two structures speaking to us of nostalgia and the reunion, which is identified as blood-ties, race or identity. All of this is transgressed, recovered in an unstable, aqueous state. And there is the sea once more, the blue that cannot be put aside, a far-off, yet very clear point, which is separated from us by a circular form that implants a distance between us and what wants to be touched.
Completing this account is the current state of our homeland that is emerging with its defects and a considerable modicum of pride. Here, the US Capitol and the Capitolio in Havana are sharing the same space. This work uses different media, including sculpture, video and photography, granting spectacular animation to this sober and covert dialogue.
One of the most striking things about this show is that these pieces are beautiful. They feature a complex beauty that is not communicated easily; rather it is the result of the crispness and forthrightness of the process with which it has been delivered.
Mabel Poblet’s manner of communicating with us rests in her skill at probing into matters that are common ground for all human beings. Sometimes they are quite minimal; other times they are transcendental. She fabricates metaphors that often project themselves from some of the more active parts of our bodies like the hands and the eyes. Her metaphors never sleep. They flow like our life’s blood, carrying a huge amount of information.
Patria at the 12th Biennial” /> June 2015 This article formed part of the june 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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