Cuban Art News reports that José Ángel Toirac recently received the Cuban National Art Award. The jury declared him “a mandatory reference in the history of the most current island art.” Here are excerpts from Cuban Art News.
He has presented more than 30 solo exhibitions in Havana, Paris, Brussels, Toronto, New York, Miami, and other cities around the globe. His pieces have been part of virtually every major international exhibition of Cuban contemporary art. He’s won national awards for curatorship and for distinction in the arts. And his work has influenced generations of younger Cuban artists.
This past weekend, José Ángel Toirac was awarded the 2018 Cuban National Art Award, the country’s highest recognition for artists.
The presentation of the award, made by Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso Grau and Norma Rodríguez Derivet, president of the Consejo Nacional de Artes Plásticas (CNAP), took place on Saturday, January 26, at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, Toirac has explored Cuban history and the process that transforms it into myth. Re-reading iconic figures and events, his art often questions the version of history constructed by archival images and opens them to alternative interpretations.
“Toirac’s works could be easily defined as a non-official chronicle of Cuban history in the last half-century,” curator Abelardo Mena Chicuri wrote in an essay about his work. “The artist proceeds in the manner of an archaeologist, compiling and processing the images of historic events and personalities presented by the island’s news media.”
Toirac’s art include paintings, videos, and installations. Among his internationally acclaimed works is “A Brief History of Cuba as Told by Other Things.” This series of paintings juxtaposes well-known images of Fidel Castro and other figures with American advertising logos.
Other paintings depict Castro, Che Guevara, José Martí and other figures in a blurred, hazy style. In these works, wrote Mena Chicuri, Toirac “has appropriated the ‘Gerhard Richter technique,’ a personal take on the blurring that the great German artist has been using since the 1970s in his series on politicians and historical personalities from that European nation.
“This blurring, related to the wear of time and to a palette of grays born from black-and-white movie nostalgia, is a distancing mechanism used by Toirac to preclude any complacency in the viewer, to sabotage any certainty or transparency in the meaning of the images.”
Throughout his career, Toirac has worked both individually and in collaboration with other artists. From 1988 to 1992, he was a member of Grupo ABTV, with artists Tanya Angulo, Juan Pablo Ballester, and Ileana Villazón.
He has also worked with such artists as Ricardo G. Elías, Octavio César Marín, and artist-curator Meira Marrero. A longtime collaborator, Marrero worked with Toirac on many influential works, including the installations Ave María (2010) and Solve et Coagula (2012), and the 2005 video Opus.
In its award statement, the jury extended special recognition to Marrero for her part in the conception and execution of the duo’s joint projects. [. . .]
[Above: José Ángel Toirac’s “Pantócrator,” 2012. Cuban Art Database.]