Magazine 29 (EN), Stories (EN)

Joniel León

The Look of What We Look at

By Ricardo Alberto Pérez

The drawing represents an infinite number of impulses that accompany him on his way to the final image; when he becomes the protagonist, these impulses are responsible for the magnitude and success of the gesture undertaken by the artist. What replaces reality, trying to paradoxically accentuate its similarity, has already passed through the intervention of a subject who in his actions proclaims an autonomy or civility expanded towards the different forms of power, which works as a natural way of dissenting. The work of Joniel León Marrero (Havana, 1985) is based on that crossroads and is sustained by a symbolism that accurately points to the individual’s links with the different locations in the city.

This drawing manifests itself as a space for meditation, challenge and experimentation, giving free rein to the obsession for detail as an essential feature in every gesture of the artist and confirming its truth before the abyss of creation. It is not just a matter of reproducing scenarios, of showing an undeniable mastery when it comes to asserting the graphite-filled voice of memory, here the emotions continue to intervene, and many of these are expressed from an ability to map one or several gazes that in themselves represent parallel feelings. His works constantly and decisively play with the perception of space, with its habitability and the responsibility he assumes when determining the sensations that each of the objects represented can leave in the spectators (citizens). 

In the series that Joniel dedicates to the diverse monuments to heroes of the History of Cuba (José Martí, Máximo Gómez), his critical and controversial content is made evident, it revolves around the intention with which these are constructed and divulged, essentially he locates the feeling of exalting and boasting individualities, which mark the difference with the rest (the masses). That’s why they highlight a relationship with that which we identify with the infinite and unfathomable, the celestial vault for example, giving the diversity of clouds a particular prominence; that is to say, the monuments are confronted with the grandiose character of nature, so that one perceives a sort of desacralization, a current of oxygen in the face of what can become oppressive due to its excess of solemnity. 

The city that it restores in fragments becomes deeply credible, in its dispersion a familiarity prevails that ends up being common to the diverse parts of the city that appear as voices or sequences of the same story. Its register imposes itself, it is the skillful eye that rejects nothing and recognizes the meticulous as a tool capable of nourishing reality without limits. He gracefully blends the most private and the most public, giving us the opportunity to unravel with our imagination the enigma that is concentrated in the interiors of this city.

His poetics seems to appreciate the whole process through which the work takes shape as a very special element to enliven the memory of each chosen scenario, the void and what is already image being discussed, creating a field of tensions that favors the moving accuracy with which he manages to put everything in its place so that the different fragments of his pieces seem to us like a skin under which a universe of sensations beats, that accompanies in an inseparable way all the structures with which he surprises us, and that to a great extent have resisted a multiple erosion that ends up defining everything that is represented.

The White House is another symbol he appropriates to express his reflections about power, intimacy, and the constant hijacking of that intimacy. These themes are unleashed and reveal a whole conceptual charge, which also implies the symbolic links that are installed in the minds of individuals and everything that happens between heaven and earth; the titles with which he calls these works give an ironic tone and parody: Homeland, Sweet Home, Heaven, Good Luck. In all this, the paradox of calling home, referring to a suspicious intimacy, a space that represents, intervenes and to some extent represses the public, seems to be at stake. What excites me most in this process is the tendency to prioritize the essence of ideas above the specific or territorial, making it clear that the chosen reference (The White House) is only an element of provocation.

Contemplating and thinking about Joniel León Marrero’s work leads us to perceive again the universe of drawing as a system of values whose efficiency and connotation seems to renew itself constantly, even in the face of the implacable speed of these times. Here we are before a creator who has not been oblivious to that confrontation that defines our capacity to think lucidly, that is to say, to balance the value of the memory granted to us by the voice with the value of the memory granted to us by the image.

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