Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sea-Scape/See-Scape: The Art of Yoan Capote

In my random internet wanderings the other day, I happened upon a thumbnail of a work by Yoan Capote, a Cuban artist I hadn't encountered before. The work was Isla (See-Scape), and I was immediately (pun intended) hooked.

Isla (See-Scape) is a seascape realized in oil and, you guessed it, fish hooks. Over 500,000 of them, affixed to the plywood and jute surface of the work over a period of six months in 2010. 

I think we sometimes have immediate positive reactions to works like these simply because they play on our expectations, producing that fizzy mixture of surprise and delight that optical illusions or trompe l'oeil paintings do, regardless of how formulaic or creatively empty they might actually be. But, while we get that surprise/delight cocktail here, I don't think Capote expects that to suffice as the beginning and end of the work, and, indeed, I think that it might simply be the happy byproduct of his work's actual program. On his website, he talks about how "the obsessive process of creation reinforce the meaning of the work, inspired in issues like Isolation, emigration, Collective fantasies and obsessions, etc...". Process becomes prime. The labor of 30 assistants, working shoulder-to-shoulder with materials that are utterly manufactured, whose function is entirely prescribed, to produce a world that is organic, whose possibilities are endless and in flux...this is what is at stake.

Have a look at his site. Other works of Capote's I really appreciated were his Retrato De La Masa (Lote) from 2008 (in which he begins carving stone portraits of strangers on the street, but only ever gets as far as an ear before the block proves too small) and Doubt from 2006 (where two doors--one black and one white--intersect to form a grey area that makes passage impossible).

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