Tying Up Memories
By Estela Ferrer
More often than not the creative phenomenon has been understood as an act of compulsion, in which the subject can do nothing but obey his instinct to bend, mold or transform a material or support to the will of his ideas. The role of the critic has always been to compile the state of madness, of creative effervescence of the artists and it is no different in this case, where Alejandro Co becomes the center of my analysis.
His work carries the ductility and fluidity that accompanies his generation. He transitions from one object to another effortlessly, with solutions that take from the past, but are awarded their deserved space in the contemporary. Ash is one of his most frequently used materials, a material ancestrally charged with funerary and ritual connotations.
Somehow, his work connects him with the concrete. There are no unnecessary ramblings, no embellishments, just the work itself. Vladimir Tatlin, the great artist of Russian Constructivism, said, “To make art is to mold the material,” and he was not wrong in his judgment. To a large extent, our receptive process begins right there as an audience; and mentally for artists it may have that same order or an inverse one. First the idea, then the material or vice versa.
Graduated from the San Alejandro National Academy of Fine Arts in 2017, Alejandro goes from installation as in Culto a la ceniza (Ash Worship) (a piece of informative content that becomes a compendium of news and events), to painting (with a series on cenotaphs that deserves singular attention), passing through photography, with the work Kirieleison (where he proposes a reflection on the Greek myth of the ferryman Charon and alludes from the title to a typical song of funeral honors).
The creator feels very comfortable approaching the historical from different points of view. In Recompensa (Reward) and the series Jardín del recuerdo (Garden of Remembrance) and Reliquias ajenas (Relics of Others), he handles it effectively. Reward was set in the public space, where several posters –using the typical design of the Wanted posters of Western movies– offered a moment of popularity to several Cuban and foreign stylists already deceased, who were recognized for their talent. The work functions from its very contradiction: the fact that they are indeed the most sought- after, but because of their skill in the trade.
Garden of Remembrance is inspired by the sacred gardens of Protestant churches, where the ashes of people with certain relevance for the order were scattered; this is transferred to the paintings, where the historical is literally burned, papers from archives on war conflicts that took place in different parts of the world, these ashes are transformed and mixed with the pigments of the pieces.
All the paintings have in common the cenotaph, as a space to pay tribute to those who died in the war and whose remains have not been found. There is a transfer, in the ashes of the archives, that plays with the subliminal. At the same time, he seeks its completeness in the tribute without overlooking the particularities of each nation. The artist makes a tour through the countries creating a sort of map, that illustrates the global character of the battle, of the trace that remains within the collective memory and also of the different architectural styles.
The palette focuses on dark tones that reinforce the solemn character. The architectural element that symbolically offers the tribute is presented as the central motif, icy and simple, perfect in its total solitude.
Ancora is a unique work, like those that arise within the extreme situations that humanity has to face. It is a double photograph showing a “face mask” covered in ash, from publications on the deaths caused by Covid-19 and its mark when it is removed. Alejandro shows the positive and the negative, the presence and absence of the object; but the protective element does not manage to detach itself from its funereal character, from the fact of surviving or not. Many have been the works that lately have the mask as a protagonist, but perhaps these two photographs, without artifice, are one of those that best expresses the loss, and trying somehow to sustain the illusion towards life, the hope and faith of not perishing during the pandemic.
In this way we notice a mobility at a good pace through the interstices of a complex theme, the historical, ready for reflection in the urban or gallery space, with solutions that induce us as receivers to curiosity or to a more emphatic look, as before the wide pictorial set of the cenotaphs that were made in small and medium formats and when shown, they build a great frieze of human pain. Truly a diagram of man, of existence and also of time.