Jesus Hernandez-Guero Or The Art Of Provoking
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 30 May 2017 — If something is clear in
the work of Jesus Hernández- Güero is that he is not a complacent
artist. His transgressive look is insolent and unrelated to any
political militancy, religious creed or commercial convenience. The
artist raises sparks everywhere: in Cuba where he was born and in
Venezuela where he now resides.
In 2008, Hernández-Güero decided that his graduation thesis at Cuba’s
Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) would be a book entitled La Tercera
Pata, with texts by journalists and writers censored. He collected
writings by the poet Rafael Alcides, the former prisoner of the Black
Spring Oscar Espinoza Chepe, and the narrator Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo,
That effort led him to knock on many doors and more than a few saw him
as a provocateur. He wanted to show the national journalistic tradition
that includes figures like Félix Varela and José Martí, a tradition that
was broken when independent publications “were closed and then
prohibited” and all that was left “in circulation were those belonging
to the State.”
The ISA leadership did not like this character of
inclusiveness. Hernández-Güero recalls that a month before the
discussion of his thesis the dean summoned him along with his tutor,
critic and curator Mailyn Machado, to inform him that the project had
not been approved. He had only two options: to take the state test or to
present a compendium of his artistic work.
He opted for the second choice and happened on the book project. On the
day of the presentation, a convenient power outage occurred at ISA and
his thesis “never had a real conclusion” even though he finished with
the maximum of qualifications.
Hernández-Güero, born in 1983, is aware that much of his research and
his artistic production “has a critical sense and a high socio-political
content, which makes official institutions or those who lead them
The artist established residence in Venezuela and he travels frequently
to Cuba, where he recently participated in a show at the Chaplin Cinema
under the title Contamination, a part of the Festival of Young Filmmakers.
However, his stay outside Cuba has not freed him from censorship because
he seeks to “annoy, disturb the viewer, not only with the art, but in
the face of reality that is lived and thought.” Something that he knows
“is often not welcome institutionally.”
Three years ago, his work At Fault, with a 23-foot bent over flagpole
and the Venezuelan flag “hoisted” on the ground, was displayed in Ciudad
Banesco during the FIA Youth Fair in Caracas. The piece was installed
before the opening and organizers covered the flag with a black bag. The
result resembled a covered corpse.
The piece caused so much turmoil in the social networks that finally
they removed the flag and left only the bent over flagpole. “From that
moment the work changed,” clarifies the artist and now the display of
the work includes some of the tweets published during the process and
“documentation of how they dismantled [the fabric].”
The whole media phenomenon and the condemnation was integrated into the
work. Because the censorship, in the words of the artist, “is a
boomerang that tries to hit who it is thrown at, but usually ends up
hitting the thrower.”
He has had to deal with similar situations on several occasions and
believes that censorship is an inseparable companion “when the work has
as its research subject the great social taboos such as politics, power,
religion, sexuality, pornography, among others.”
Hernandez-Güero’s work constantly questions power. Not only political
power, but also “the symbolic power of visual images and conventions
that are deposited in the social imaginary as indestructible, immovable
or untouchable truths,” he explains.
In these circumstances he is always exposed to reprimands or warnings
that end up “completing the work or expanding it to another plane,”
often one unsuspected by the artist himself.
The most recent of his works takes the name Historical Coincidences and
mixes, in the same image, portraits of great personalities who have
assumed similar postures and attitudes before the camera, regardless of
time, place or context.
Most are premeditated appearances, but in other cases it is an instant
captured without any pose. His intention is to “demystify these figures”
and to question “the perception of them in the historical and social
imaginary.” The elaboration is simple: superimpose one face on another,
which gives way to new faces and “other possible expressions, but
unrecognizable, unknown by all.”
They are works with a great political content and, at the end of last
year, five of the pieces of that series received prizes in the October
Young Salon, at the Valencia Museum of Art.
Hernandez-Guerero does not prefer one medium over another. As for the
new technologies, he believes that knowing them previously offers more
possibilities to “know their potential.” Because the greater an artist’s
arsenal, the more possibilities he will have to “navigate within the
Source: Jesus Hernandez-Guero Or The Art Of Provoking – Translating Cuba
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