Cuban Art: José Manuel Fors

Artist José Manuel Fors was recently featured in Havana Cultura (link below). José Manuel Fors (Havana, 1956) is a Cuban artist/photographer and curator. Graduated from the San Alejandro Art Academy, he was a former curator of the Instituto de Museología and a designer for the National Museum of Fine Arts Fine in Havana. Fors has often worked with various media and techniques, exploring more particularly the themes of memory and nature. Besides being very well known in Cuba, his work has been shown at leading galleries and museums in Madrid, Milan, Brussels, Paris, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Miami, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Toronto, among other cities. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

Fors is usually called a photographer but that description can be misleading. He uses photography as a support medium the way a painter or a sculptor uses a first coat of gesso as a basic step before the act of creation can begin. And sometimes Fors doesn’t use photography at all. On a wall opposite his kitchen is a circular artwork—almost a sculpture—consisting of hundreds of small, everyday household objects (forks, machine parts, scissor blades, buttons, a hairbrush handle…). “The image becomes an archaeological site,” he explains. “The image gains value in relation to the function all these objects once had.”

[. . .] “In the end I didn’t paint much,” he recalls. “I had been an abstract painter. I never really mastered drawing. My work seemed to become richer when I used other materials, or if I worked in three dimensions. My father had a darkroom in our home, as a hobby. He was an agronomist but he liked photography. My family has always liked photography—especially my father’s father—and I think I tried it because I had all that around me. In those days [in Cuba in the early 1980s] photography wasn’t considered to be art. Sometimes people told me I should paint because painting was what sells, but I couldn’t do anything it. Photography was something I could do.”

[. . .] He rarely leaves the house with a camera and he doesn’t travel with one. He compares his working methods to a painter’s. “A painter is isolated in his studio and creates everything that comes into his head.” What comes into Fors’ head is “a kind of family memory,” he says. “I started out by appropriating my family photos.” The occasion for this was a 1982 exhibition dedicated to exploring the links between art and science, at Cuba’s National Museum of Fine Arts, where Fors was a museographer for 10 years. “I took an image of my grandfather’s face and I used a lot of his documents.” His grandfather, Alberto José Fors, was the man who brought modern forestry to Cuba. “Eventually I used my whole family.”

How does he explain his move from managing a museum to producing art that would be housed there? “I got tired,” he says, “tired of the working hours, of the salary, of everything. So I said, fine, I have to do my own work, to take a risk, and it paid off. I managed to become an artist and to live from it. There are ups and downs, but I don’t have to go to work, I work right here, in my home.”

For full article and a fascinating video interview with Jose Manuel Fors, see  

Also see

One thought on “Cuban Art: José Manuel Fors

  1. Thanks for the article about José Manuel Fors. I’ve been looking for interesting information about him, and I found this to be the most enlightening.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s