Cuba's digital destination
It was a great surprise when we walked into Ra?l Cordero?s studio, whose location in a central avenue of El Vedado offers a splendid panoramic view of a district where art nouveau, art deco, grandiloquent eclecticism and sober rationalism blend together in a nonconflicting shape—in the words of novelist Alejo Carpentier—?the style of a styleless city?.
While our photographer surreptitiously observed areas and calculated light, I couldn?t stop looking at unexpected stains on the floor and half-finished canvases leaning against the bare walls, while the smell of oils intermix with the aroma of fresh-made coffee, inevitable prelude to our chat. The fact is that finding paintings and canvases in the workshop of Cuba?s video art guru is as unusual as an umbrella or sewing machine in the dissection table imagined by Count Lautr?amont, or a pair of boxing gloves in the entrance hall of Alicia Alonso?s house.
However, after a few minutes of conversation, our questions were dispelled, as Cordero, resigned to give us an explanation, perhaps repeated dozens of times before, dismantled the classificatory eagerness that in the 21st century we have dragged from the 19th; for him, the artist is a generator of ideas, and those ideas define the ideal vehicle of expressing them: painting, video, photography, installations? hence, his adversity to diminishing classifications. His is ?an art generated from the process itself of making art?, which leaves the viewer with the experience of solving—or not—the problems posed by the work of art, of taking it in only as a result that he may enjoy or reject, or embarking on the adventure of unravelling a complex structure of actions not without difficulties and even traps set by the artist. How it is received depends on the public?s information, codes and even state of mind, and may go from interpreting a roller coaster as a metaphor of the soviet socialist scheme to discerning flashes of street and car lights in the woods, or an intertextual game with impressionism. In this ambiguity, in this uncertainty, in this multiplicity of readings, lies for this artist his liberty as a creator.
Ra?l Cordero—who from 1982 to 1995 received a solid academic formation, having studied under many of the protagonists of the so-called New Cuban Art that shook the island?s plastic arts during the 1980s, graduating from the Higher Design Institute, receiving a scholarship from the Graphic Media Development Centre at The Hague, and later on teaching at the Higher Art Institute in Havana—has, during the last two years, returned to painting, perhaps because it poses a challenge that matches his expectations: to engage in dialogue with centuries of tradition, of technical and conceptual inquiries, of spectacular leaps and seeming or actual backward movements, and he does this incorporating also his preference for more recent experimental procedures, which he has been working on even before his 1994 piece, El ba?o—first Cuban video art exhibited in a gallery within the island—and even his passion for music, which he shares with DJs, instrumentalists and composers, from Cuba and abroad. Manipulating and stretching the video to the full in order to express on canvas the surprising result of many meanings seems to be, for now, the course of one of the most disconcerting and unclassifiable creators of contemporary art in Cuba.
Ra?l Cordero (Havana, Cuba, 1971)
1982-1985 Elementary School of Plastic Arts, Havana, Cuba
1985-1989 San Alejandro Fine Arts School, Havana, Cuba
1989-1994 Higher Design Institute, Havana, Cuba
1995 Graphic Media Development Centre, The Hague, Netherlands (scholarship)
1994-2002 New Genre Professor. Higher Art Institute, Havana, Cuba
2001 New Genre Professor. San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California, and the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Ohio
Ra?l Cordero. Trabajo reciente, Havana, Cuba, 2006. Adorno, Havana, Cuba, 2005. The Rolling Landmark, Los Angeles, U.S.A., 2003. Tres pinturas, Havana, Cuba; Stages -The Zooming Experience -Shopworn, Los Angeles, U.S.A.; Ra?l Cordero (1996-200), Salamanca, Espa?a; Ra?l Cordero (1996-2001), Pamplona, Espa?a, 2002. Ra?l Cordero, San Francisco, U.S.A., 2001. Ra?l Cordero at the New Media Room, New York, U.S.A.; Ra?l Cordero, New York, U.S.A.; Ra?l Cordero, California, U.S.A., 2000. I Miss You Much, Los Angeles, U.S.A., 1999. Ra?l Cordero: RE-MIXED, Havana, Cuba, 1998. Quiz Paintings, Los Angeles, U.S.A.; ATENCI?N, Havana, Cuba; Nuevas pinturas, Havana, Cuba, 1997. Todo depende del relato, Havana, Cuba; Trabajo reciente: fotograf?as, Havana, Cuba, 1996. Lecciones de la vida, Havana, Cuba, 1994. El l?mite de la nada y algunos ?ngeles, Havana, Cuba, 1992. Alucinaciones II, Guanabacoa, Cuba, 1991. Alucinaciones I, Havana, Cuba, 1990.
He has taken part in collective exhibitions in Cuba, Canada, Spain, Czechoslovakia, United States, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Dominican Republic, Japan, M?xico, Italy, Switzerland, Ecuador, Portugal and Great Britain, among others countries. His work forms part of important public collections in Cuba, Canada, United States, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Spain. May 2010