The work of Gustavo Acosta is a part of the aesthetic and discursive nucleus that is known today, both in the current contemporary art circuit as well among international art critics, as “The young Cuban artists of the 80s.” It was the first generation of artists who were formed after the triumph of the revolution. Hence, it is a generation that received its education within the tradition of the critical mindset of the revolution, immersed in the reflexive attitude toward culture, art and society influenced by the echoes of Marxism and, above all, excited about the political-cultural utopia that was the Cuban revolution.
When we reflect on this retrospective of the work of Gustavo Acosta, given that it covers over twenty years of his work, on one hand we point to the discursive consistency manifested in the metaphor of the city that runs through all of his work. And on the other hand, its poetic strength, in which precise control of the principal symbolic elements of drawing and painting construct a distinctive expression of his generation. From the poetic point of view, we perceive the constant intention of creating a view. A view that is built fundamentally on linguistic codes from the neo-figurative style, but which also includes neo-expressionistic elements (more in the drawings than in the paintings). From this pictorial syntax emerges a variegated style where brush strokes saturate the entire canvas. And he does it in such a way that we see the works both as flat surfaces and with depth at the same time. We perceive his time-space references to cities as true and false, and we feel that they are at once translucent and convulsed. In the works from the early 90s, there are even moments of agitated narration that leave us in suspense. There are enigmatic, mysterious atmospheres with pictorial allusions to neo-romanticism where, in many instances, the dark colors impose themselves on the forms in a way that reminds us somewhat of the paintings of cities and buildings of Anselm Kiefer. To be sure, in Acosta’s work, as in the paintings of the German artist, there is a close correlation to history. Because they consider the city, its architecture, its places, and, in general, the world that these elements constitute, as a laboratory of the imagination, an immense file of images to be used to relate social history and architecture to personal history. In other words, they use architecture and urbanity as spaces in which, in the words of Walter Benjamin, the material history of mankind, his culture and society are inscribed.
There is a curious intersection of two fundamental discursive aspects that runs through the work of this artist. On one side, there is the author’s urgent need to reflect on the dense ideo-aesthetic of these cities. On the other, an impulse toward a coded autobiographical narrative that is constantly responding to the question of what can be seen in them, and how to live in or inhabit them. It is in this respect, in this position that the artistic viewpoint in the work of Gustavo Acosta is constructed.
For Acosta, to create a view is to completely remove the pictorial representation of the subject, blot out its presence, as happens in most of his works, in order to discharge all of the symbolic potential of the objects which,
for this artist, are omnipresent and profound
in the city, in the architecture and urbanity of
its spaces. But if it is certain that throughout
his trajectory the object-city is omnipresent, sometimes seen from a bird’s eye view (most
of all in the later works), other times at street level in his infinite passages, it is also certain that behind this, we perceive the implicit omnipresence of the subject. For example, in the self-conscious manner of framing the scenes,
in the way the sites and landscapes of the city are selected, or in the distinctive manner of using the “dark” tones of light. Because, even though this subject has been blotted out of the representation, his gaze, nevertheless, leads us to the interior or the exterior, to day or night. His gaze–and that’s what we’re considering here–embraces the darkness in the same way that it summons the light. It is a subject whose view penetrates the patterns of light and dark to highlight a street lamp, the intersection of a street, the shadow thrown by a building or a random square. It is a gaze that throughout the exposition questions, more than responds to, what it feels like to be a part of the city rather than to inhabit it. In places that can be located in such different looking spots as Havana or Berlin, Madrid or Miami.