Ivonne Ferrer / Art Attack curated by Aldo Menéndez
Art Attack / When Art Attacks
To write on an exhibition while being its curator, when it comes to a personal repertoire whose author is my quintessential partner in the journey of life, it implies running certain risks—without straying any further—as intimacy and affection can bewtich me with heavy burdens. I will have to be vigilant so that nothing clouds my mind and prevents me from being objective, it is imperative that love does not blind me. By no means can a dissatisfied colleague manage to cut your light and water, but for the wife that’s a piece of cake, I will attempt furthermore, with luck, to take care and walk the line.
What has characterized the work of Ivonne Ferrer up until now (Havana)? What is revealed to anyone who follows her career? She inserts herself within a movement of the Cuban visual arts, which since the 90s constructs allegories with images of the past that, recreated, refer to the present. Making use of illustrations, advertisments, vignettes, engravings and the graphic icons of yesterday, it is a fishery in a bank of ancient images; methodically and reasonably reassembled, to elaborate metaphors, or that rhetorical literary figure which we call metonymy, that much like the metaphor and synechdoche, are tropes; what we call figurative sense, disguises concealing to a certain extent, political criticism, satire or parody of the system still prevailing in her country; that is, the reality in which she had to live and grow before leaving her land, because in her case such analysis and questioning later took shape, on the horizon, on the other side of the Atlantic.
In that current, it is worth noting the presence of other artists, who like Ivonne, studied at San Alejandro and worked in the Portocarrero Workshop of Artistic Screen Printing, among them Sandra Ramos, Armando Mariño and the missing Pedro Álvarez. Similarly, there were graduates of the ISA, which are consolidated around the Fifth Wifredo Lam Biennial, Saavedra, Ponjuan, Estereo Segura among others, who used allegory, benefitting from the imaginary Soviet. In its totality, this current has deeper roots in our work, of which this is not the proper place to address them and goes back to the late 60s. We then used the engravings of the conquest, the North American consumer advertisements—especially the ones of antique cars—and cultural and political propoganda of the 1920s, etc.
A highlight of Ivonne associated with this trend, corresponds to her solo exhibition ® Evolution Comics, Aluna Art Foundation, 2012. At that moment, in my opinion, Ivonne acheives complete mastery of such a narrative, of that game of symbolic exchange aesthetically based on the appropriation and randomness with which she composes a symbolism that ends up manifesting with the nostalgic airs of Dada and Surrealism, in a Neo-Pop version. Naturalist in essence, carrying part of the instrumental and the acheived discourse; for some time now, Ivonne decides that it is time for a change, through which she transfers the playful factors and her ironic vision, to a unique environment, in a new series where her humorous temperament increases and the reactions of conflicting characters to “real art” rises dramatically. Perceived by Ivonne, by way of something largely turned into a spectacle, into an object of consumption and consequently into a bag of goods, impacting the average person in different ways; confusing with its high degree of promiscuity, alarming with its aggressiveness, eccentricities, nonchalance and scandal, arrogating the extremism of fashion, signing on the offensive when converting the show into something equivalent to a complete visibility of things, which is obscene and identifies with “Acting Out” (Acting), as well as immediacy, visually saturated by the Mass Media, together with all of the physical and technical support provided by modern technology—something it shares with Jean Baudrillard—and which revolves around the threshold of individual and collective tolerance; combining the fracturing of art in the present.
In this recent proposal, Ivonne gives preference to the redesign and replacement of elements and three-dimensional solutions of sculpture, which in essence was the main discpline covered during her academic studies; an artistic genre that, combined with the installations and direct intervention of objects, produced a sample of in Gallery Cesar Segnini, 2000, where she began her exploration and indictment of the course in which fine art was taking at the international level, insisting on the prevalence the art market and mercantilism would gain, even so far as superseding the judgement of criticism.
Now, it concocts entities or part sculptural machine beings, crafted with pieces of recognizable and famous artistic products, in adversity which intimidates and harrases spectators, shifting onto them the perplexity of our times and, in addition, the technological predominace on what is an uncontrollable, generally overwhelming, advancement. “Expressions,” Ivonne explains, “also pose problems by fragmenting, by compartmentalizing art, multiplying the privative (specific) themes and codes, in the style of the minority; racial, feminist, gay, lesbian and transgender, ecologists etc., etc…, an endless list, that generates in this sense tribal qualities, not only when producing art but also when consuming it.”
Denying my wife the floor would have been an unforgivable mistake:
“Of course there is more to this series than confrontation, maybe I should just state my point,” continues Ivonne, “here, there exists a great deal of homage at the same time, together with what I borrowed, for example, from Calder, Botero, Tinhuely, Cárdenas, Moore, Indiana, Negret, Jeff Koons, Tony Matelli, etc., etc…, originating an intimate, loving and sentimental act. As I manipulate what they did, a sort of practical, quite romantic idolatry blossoms”—it is emotion and experimentacion that which is derived from converging a fragment of Frank Stella’s modern wall reliefs, with a classic piece by Antonio Canovas of the strength of Psyche, revived by the kiss of love; edit, unite and restore… pursuing an expressivity of her own, taking a detail from a sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti and fusing it with another of John Chamberlain’s avant-garde scrap metal.
She seems to refer to what is, behind it all, that which Miguel Cereceda describes as the twilight of the artist’s romantic conception, because in particular, just as it has always happened, the nature of art continues to change even in this era of uncertainty, the spectator in relation to art also continues to mutate as well. Far from it, Ivonne insists, is the pretense of emerging now with a namby-pamby, moralizing spirit of a Marxist nature. Because art should in no way, stop addressing the disturbing, obscene or impure: “I simply have my creatures interacting in that guise—amongst the disturbing—operating in the middle of a landscape, trying to make my visual results seduce,” explains Ivonne.
Nietzsche admitted that if the wicked, contradictions, diseases, miseries, vices, crimes etc., ceased to grow, it would mean condemning life, denying it. Life and art implicates the white and the black (yin and yang), and Ivonne is now snooping around on the effects of a part of the fine arts that seems to be unleashing a terrible attack. However, she attempts to soften the load by introducing a lot of comedy—evidentally—it is a reinvention of the artistic objective on the basis of contradictions and historical anomalies that comprise ridiculous mixtures and roles which result even in stupid mistakes.
“At this point, despite the fact that explaining what I do torments me, I wish to go back and insist that change is merely development from another perspective, but without renouncing what came before,” Ivonne elaborates, “so in these paintings the allegorical still works, still I have not neglected eroticism, nor forgotten sensuality, less still humor, these are as I have already said, ways of looking at things, much like the Cuban mentality…I’m like that, what are we going to do…”
I will note also, the eclecticism of the recycling of images in your work, even when a coherent formal style or order is finally imposed. The “ajiaco fotográfico” (photographic soup) and the “coctel churrigueresco” (churrigueresque cocktail) make our national idiosyncrasy dance with pleasure and happiness. Combined they achieve an unusual, rare, disturbing projection, very much yours…a hurricane of signals in scenes that seem to be decorated with wallpaper…
“Yes, but here the balance is more universal,” Ivonne chimes, “and quite devoid of local gossip, the National moves to a more subjective level, conceptual, intrinsic like DNA…”
What could definitely cost me a marital problem, would be to finalize this essay without emphasizing that Ivonne is grateful to be able to present her first personal work from the series Art Attack, in the Kendall Art Center, with which she fully identifies after intertwining with the project since its inception; perhaps the most liberal and diverse illustrative framework of Cuban art outside the island, with well-maintained exhibitions and promotions. A collection, like that of Leo Rodríguez, where Ivonne feels at home. “Like being in my own house!”