There are artists who besides having a solid history they have the ability to continue surprising spectators. This is the case of Vicente Rodríguez Bonachea, who recently passed away.
The poetics of Bonachea, a versatile artist who manages with fluency in visual arts and in the difficult art of sculpture, shows a high quality in making his works at this moment of his career. A dependable proof of this statement was his last presentation at the Eleventh Edition of the Havana Biennial.
Noche insular, jardines invisibles was the title of the proposal presented. On this occasion formal elements that have marked his unique poetics through the years are seen: the natural elements, the fusion of cold colors with a preponderance of green and blue tonalities in his palette and the use of metaphor and allegory as discursive resources. Due to the aesthetic making and the conceptual density of two works of the group, my analysis will only focus on them.
In Me convertiré en isla (I’ll become an island) the artist has built a figure connected to the earth by means of hands growing as branches. It is said that an image is worth more than a thousand words. I had never believed more in that phrase until the moment I was in front of this work. This piece is the metaphor of the existence of the Caribbean subject (as the whole) remitted from the part (the subject who becomes an island). And it is that eternal circumstance of water everywhere what conditions the way every Caribbean man faces life. It is, then, the island as a space, as a home and extension of the conscience itself of the individual. The island seen from our subjectivity and, also, the way that experience is a result of the conjunction of a mental construction, of a geographical enclave --as a place-- and of the place as nature.
Palas pa Atenea (Shovels for Athena) is an installation. The piece consists of two parts: the blade of the shovel adorned with a painting and the handle with a figure from history. In the first, it is the Cuban flag and the image of José Martí; in the second, it is the National Coat of Arms and Virgen de la Caridad de El Cobre (Virgin of the Charity of El Cobre).
In this work Bonachea is appealing to a ludic game between the goddess Pallas Athena and the title of the piece. It is one of the readings made at first sight. The typical offer to the gods by means of rituals –like in Ancient Times– takes a new sense in this case. Wine or any other element propitiatory of the rite are no longer offered, but the hero of his country (the Apostle) and the figure of greatest cult (the Patron Saint of Cuba, but indistinctly Virgin of the Charity or Saint Barbara for the popular sector). In addition, icons that remit to the aboriginal history of the nation like the spearhead or the image of the twins. Therefore, what is given to be consecrated are the two stronger edges of his island: the militant and the religious.
From this point of view, the concept of nation overcomes now the cartographic space to be illustrated through reflections, through that such thin limit, but which is in itself what conforms our character: the ideals; all that continuing to be a very well built and beautiful piece, from the aesthetic point of view.
The characters of Bonachea seem to look at us from the suspicion, or maybe from the complicity, don’t they? Those faces that adopt at moments the phenotype of owls more than once have brought about our reflection. To think is perhaps the first invitation made by these sculptures that, from their solitude or in an installation ensemble, become owners of the space.
I believe we are fortunate to have had such a complete artist in our art.
Translated by Roberto Espí Valero