Wilay Méndez Páez’s solo show, “Conexiones” [Connections], will be on view at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library (Quiet Study Suite) from October 24, 2019, to July 31, 2020. Through metal sculptures made from chunks of old cars and mixed media collages on cardboard featuring pieces of deteriorated walls, this Afro-Cuban artist creates absorbing artwork that explores life in his hometown of Havana.
The opening will take place on October 24, from 5:00 to 7:00pm. At this event, Mendéz Páez and curator Anastasia Valecce (Department of World Languages and Cultures, Spelman College) will offer an intimate look at the exhibit and speak about the inspiration behind it. [The Woodruff Library is located at 111 James P. Brawley Drive SW, Atlanta, Georgia.]
Artist’s Statement (excerpts): “Conexiones” [Connections] is a series that includes both metal sculptures and mixed media collages on cardboard. The work is a study of everyday life and human connections mainly in the urban space of Havana. In doing so, the artist navigates the city, shifting our attention to the margins and the marginalized while focusing on human interactions with centralized discourses, traditions, habits, and local beliefs.
The sculptures present movable elements that visually refer to the ways in which citizens occupy the urban space: as a whole in constant movement. These movements voluntarily or involuntarily encourage the human being to interact, to touch, to smell, and to perceive other bodies, walls and cement on the streets of the city. In this context, the people become a social, cultural, human mass fully connected with all of the mystic processes of the city’s existence. As a result, this body of work recreates a gestural language in constant movement.
The collages also present a connection to the tradition of the Street Art. However, in this case, the walls are traveling to the page and they coexist with written texts embedded in the collage, as we would see graffiti in the street. Words and walls create an intimate language that witness and narrate the apparent void of a peeled wall and fill it with poetic texts. The fragmented poems included in the collages come from the artist’s poetry book titled Arroz con Aceite [Rice with Oil]. These texts describe the topography of the living body of the city. Therefore, each collage is a metaphor of a moving person or an intimate thought, and sometimes has a bi-dimensional tendency composed by lines, metal elements, words, sounds, letters, and symbols.
Curator’s Statement (excerpts): Wilay Méndez Páez (Cuba, 1982) is an Afro-Cuban artist whose work explores everyday life and human connections. He mainly works collage and sculpture and all of his pieces are made from recycled materials. For example, he scrapes out pieces of deteriorated walls in Havana as well as in other parts of the island, and he recuperates the metal from old cars. His pieces highlight the texture of the urban space in a depth of lights and shades that capture the nuances of the geography he inhabits. The lines, the details, and the elaboration process of his art shape new tendencies through the visual lens of the artist.
As a result, Wilay Méndez Páez creates a new map of the city he rescues in his collages and with his sculptures he deconstructs and reshapes the present of Cuban experiences with life, current challenges, and daily questions. His work establishes a new kind of connection with the city and offers a refreshing visual dialogue with his reality in Havana.
Méndez Páez’s work offers an image of an island that escapes any romanticized cliché of a mythological past or an imagined utopic future. Instead, he invites his spectators to be fully immersed in and connected with the present of the city that, as he says, “he was destined to live in”.