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Maikel Domínguez / Full of Pollen curated by Henry Ballate

Maikel Domínguez (b. Holguín, Cuba, 1989). He completed studies at the Real Institute of Art (Stockholm, Sweden, 2012), graduated from the Higher Institute of Art (Havana, Cuba, 2012) and from Professional Academy of the Visual Arts (Holguín, 2007). He has carried out solo shows such as: Bellas Ausencias (Rimonim Art Gallery, Miami, USA, 2016), Antes que anochezca (Galleri Duerr, Stockholm, 2011), Apuntes de un soldado desconocido (Osvaldo Guayasamín Museum, Havana, 2011), Si el mar se secara lo sembrara de caña (Carmelo Galería, Havana, 2009). Also, he has taken part of group shows such as: Flujos e influencias (Santa Bárbara Cultural Center, Stockholm, 2012), Exposición de Primavera (Real Institute of Art, Stolkholm, 2012), Layers (Collateral to XI Havana Biennial, 2012), Cripsis (University of the Arts, Havana, 2011), El extremo de la bala (Cuba Pavilion, Havana, 2010), Bomba (Wifredo Lam Centro, Havana, 2010), Esporas (Cuba Pavilion, Havana, 2010), Cambio y fuera (Collateral to X Havana Biennial, 2009). His works are included in private collections in Cuba, USA, Canada, Sweden, Luxemburg, and Spain. 

Maikel Domínguez is a lonely artist, locked in his bubble of fantasies and dreams. And that’s what attracts me about him, his unpredictability: when everyone goes to the right, he goes to the left. When they follow a trend, he looks at his navel and forgets about the world. He only cares about his muses, his unique and singular country of wonders. That’s why he’s so authentic.

 

His work is as shy and mysterious as himself, as refined and elegant as only a few will understand. His canvases speak from absence, rather than from presence. What is not on the pictorial surface, what is missing: that is where the magic of his works begins. A minimalism that reminds us of the famous phrase “the essential is invisible to the eyes.”

 

His work is also cannibal, chameleonic: today in one way, tomorrow another, today from one and another at a time; a nightmare for gallerists and the market. Since I’ve known him, he changes his style like changing clothes. He uses and discards with the same speed: neo-expressionism, pop, abstraction, grotesque photographs; large formats, small, medium; nervous brushstrokes or pending to details. Everything bores him with great ease. And that is his great charm: a mixture of “everything transcends me” with “nothing impresses me.” It is impossible to track him.

 

Like any good dreamer.

 

Píter Ortega Núñez M.A.

Henry Ballate, Lisyanet Rodríguez, Maikel Domínguez, Roxana M Bermejo, Piter Ortega and Alejandro Condis.  

 

You and I, lovers

 

by Andrés Isaac Santana.

 

From a strange crossing between rational impulses and a confessed and clear seduction, comes this approach of mine to the poetics of the young Cuban artist Maikel Domínguez. Writing requires from the critic as much as painting —in its most fertile irreverence— demands from the artist. For this reason, half-truth and half-lie, Maikel and I are true lovers. The wayward object of our desire is not that which dwells in the contingency of an alien plane. That object of passion and suffering is none other than our self, camouflaged in the lyrics of a bolero. What we do tells of us and tells on us. In his case, painting reveals and stands as a gesture of affirmation; in my case, it´s worth saying, writing outlines a biography in which the image and the verb seal its ultimate destiny.

 

His is not a work of barely certifiable, if presumable, evidences. His work comes from a distant and dark place where what we are (or what we think we are), mixes up with the outburst of the other people’s fictional dimension. When I carefully observe Maikel´s visual digressions, suddenly, I accept the legitimacy of the death of all that narrative that tends to stereotype those so called attributes of Cuban art. His work escapes, flees, and mocks any pretension of gravity and belonging. Art, he seems to say, is nothing but the unspoken contract between the self and the distorted image of that projection of me fixed at the bottom of that perpetual raft we´re all in. So, art would be that voice (not the voice) that purges the shadows and sentences the beast. Maikel’s paintings go beyond any restrictive notion of themes or trends. In their real and more profuse autonomy they deepen a real or fictitious modeling of the subject that lives behind each surface.

 

“My work is a process through which I achieve happiness.” This statement of his underlines —perhaps without him knowing it— the psychological density of his work. By relegating his happiness to the process of creation and to the work —as happiness´ emphatic receptacles—, the artist confesses his profound generosity, contrary to the narcissistic bulimia of our world. His beauty, his strange, nervous and elusive look, his cold white skin turns him into a desired and desiring being. I, on the contrary, see him as an island where the tortured obsession of a “neat” and “dirty” work draws the silhouette of a Robinson Crusoe, imprisoned in his own skin. The gods make fun of those who do not know themselves. Luckily, Maikel knows himself master of his greatness and his human narrowness. The powers of creation have been benevolent to him, they have given him domain of a trade he handles with graciousness and thickness. And he knows very well what Oscar Wilde knew, that “supreme vice is the limitation of the spirit”. Maybe that’s why his pieces abound in details, like a sort of minimalist and baroque map tending towards the same point of flight and tension: his own self. Thus, the work translates into a scenario for the persuasive exercise of alchemy. This outcome leads him to say: “I understand art as a tool with which I can do magic, generate reality and establish a direct connection between the divine and the intimate. Painting offers me the possibility of experiencing a unique act, in which the physical and mental action are unified and create an energy capable of healing my body and mind “.

 

Everything indicates that the consecration of the work as a fact itself is based on the propitiatory tributaries of a rhetoric of healing and the exaltation of the soul. The worldly randomness that haunts and harms existence finds its ease at the very center of an aesthetic operation in which movement and drive stand out as central axes of a visuality that likes the eloquent calm of the delicate and mannered. From this emphatic center, the artist bares himself, tending bridges, almost always invisible, between the speculated/speculative surface and the real world. No wonder he attests “my work is testimonial; it reflects the essence of my experiences, seeks solutions and answers to my conflicts, expands my universe. The images surprise me anywhere; I almost never clearly know their true origin. However, I feel a latent impulse to follow them and reveal their purposes. Each time is unique, even being simultaneously destructive and painful as exciting and pleasurable.”

 

Evidently, the riddles that accompany him in the chain of visual models and narrative principles are vital and plenty. The reagent and aching hardness of some of his creations and findings borders the projection and sweetening of pastel and cloy appearances, a solid allegation that supports an eye-trap of slight presumption. The lineal or geometric atmospheres fade in the eagerness of protecting the spirit of those strange beings of his that seem to inhabit somewhere between silent pain and tricked complacency. Eventually, the large formats become wide runways of imperfect balance, and dangerous avenues where the represented (and scrutinized) subject plays to be happy.

I once read that Maikel belongs to a generation of young Cuban artists concerned with light painting and the more aesthetic drive. The truth is that such statement sounds utterly absurd to me, when knowing that sentence implies the —declared— relinquishment of worthy conceptual digressions in favor of exercising the eye. That affirmation is improper from every point of view since it stigmatizes —while wanting to defend and legitimate— the referential body of that new painting, and reduces it to a grammar of formal and dull associations. It would be enough to observe the work of this artist, and many others of his same promotion, to warn the conceptual bias and the psychological thickness of these works, which some consider detached from the critical tradition of Cuban art. I, on one hand, think this new painting, more than any other, keeps a close relationship with the iconographic genealogy of Cuban art, even more than that critical response of a very specific moment that emerged and channeled in the 80´s.

 

Others should be the coordinates of association and hermeneutic interpretation when approaching this new group of creators and works. The imprint of Cuban tradition in the epicenter of these new productions is remarkable, to the point of delirium of the most prudent speculation. These absolutist tendencies have damaged the global image of Cuban art in both directions. It´s common knowledge that Cuban art is a textual space ruled by a cubist drive in terms of prolixity in discourses, languages ​​and reactions. Hence, any reduction is bound to become an exercise of contraction and falsification.

 

Maikel is, in his essence and difference, an authentic heir of that rich pictorial tradition. His poetics are based on the territories of that previous art, but it´s sealed under the sign of a powerful singularity. I could go through the halls of a thousand museums in the world and safely recognize the presence of his work. His fictional constructions and compositional juggling have the weight of a cosmos. In some way, I think his pieces present as a kind of anachronistic story in which lyricism and derision alternate. I suspect he´s ignorant about it, but Maikel is, unmistakably, a rabid poet. He is a Dandy of seduction, and androgyny in surface. From his canvases emanates a sweet and bitter breath, a hint of birth that rivals the threat of an announced death. His paintings seem to belong to cosmogony as well as to literature. They engender, increase, and compose the vocabulary of a rugged sexuality. The libidinal revolution resolved in them is directly proportional to their clinical sterility. The legitimacy of his paintings becomes manifest when, from their discursive regency, they are able to recognize their imperfection and human vulnerability. They do not reduce the spectacle of life to equivalences or mocks, but celebrate the vital drive in the mirror of the futile and the funereal.

 

These works, apart from the previous arguments, don’t seem to live in a specific space, nor in a specific geography. These works, I insist, inhabit the areas of obsessions, retraction and narcissism. They are x-rays of a deviation, of a more or less attainable state of things, the adoration of beauty over the ordinary devastation of the prevalent vulgarity. There is a strange and beautiful tendency to unity and to abyss in them. It’s like if, suddenly, their very physicality was subject to a self-destructive principle. The instinct of preservation disguises in its core the same thirst for death.

 

When men rest from their primeval erections, when language isn’t used to mark but to discern the scent of fluids, when dreams cease to be plans of conquest to speak of renewed utopias, and surfaces tell a story instead of representing one; then, and only then, will Maikel’s paintings give shape to that disturbing voice that enters them into the complicity of an eternal silence.

 

Then, the lover will replace the mask with the face.

and then the saddest calm...

 

by Elvia Rosa Castro.

 

The artistic avant-gardes endured reluctantly those examinations contaminated by the fundaments of forms, an academic whiff that, even if it´s still existent academic curriculum, was displaced by Philosophy, Anthropology and other disciplines brilliantly grouped, at least in Havana, under the label Theory of Culture. The discipline Aesthetics diverged from the canon mixing with non-related others that were emerging, like as Cultural Studies, Visual Studies and incredibly, Sociology. The formal approach, insufficient and grumbling, gave way to the emphasis on the discourse and the emission of cultural meanings. From these perspectives some heuristic endeavors could be launched or outline the odd prognosis, such as “Latin American art has ceased to be”.

 

Right now, when the identity criteria are more than obsolete, the national galleries smell of archaeological trace, and curatorship is based on topics that can fit artists from any different context, a straight cultural revision is not enough either; there would be a whole artistic production left out, one that doesn´t get taunted by any of the dominant cultural schools of the 20th and 21st century.

 

Now, looking at the works of Maikel Domínguez, I can see it. In front of us there is a whole creative fragment, paradoxical and fragrant, marked by a state of mind far from the fear or modern nausea, but a chronic melancholy: a global cultural blues seemingly without support. Tender and grotesque. A generational blues I have had before my eyes and which at some point I tried to explain by noticing introspective journeys, poetry, and so on... but this is something else! Yes, they are these journeys; yes, they are softened egos, and there are poetic flashes but there is no pretension and therefore, there is no artist: only a psychic self-portrait through painting. I would say that it is an entirely disinterested work and more, Narcisse-like.

 

It´s very likely you´ll find a show lacking a statement in Full of pollen and in fact that´s it since it itself is the statement. Although it was born from a very particular story, it tells us about its own orphanhood: neither ideology, nor motherland, nor masters, nor parents. The figure of the child, the infantile touch, the colors of a cradle, the quaint tenderness, are the witnesses of that state of abandonment and, consequently, the evocation of a time of shelter. Somehow, this exhibit and its contemporaries point to an extended adolescence. Children

 

In 2012 Maikel was a student at the Instituto Superior de Arte and received a scholarship to study a semester in Sweden. Almost upon arrival he decided that was his place, by contrast. And for love. The experience of a freezing cold, the exotic image of a tea stain in the snow, the wild strawberries and the structure of an almost perfect society, that other air, that extreme and strange image is what all beings long for. But the brief spring, when “the Earth swells”, is pregnant with pollen ... and allergy. There´s a monopolistic invasion of pollen everywhere and the people who fall ill in the most beautiful and expected season of the year.

 

There is some natural cruelty in these paradoxes or dualities but Full of pollen is a fragment of Maikel’s diary that transcends a phase of the year. That invisible dust is an efficient pretext to revisit and close, if possible, a chapter of his life; but also to let off steam on it, on its rarities and absurdities. This are states he concentrates on their exact dose: the only phenomenal vestige of this “excess optimism” he experienced upon arrival is portrayed in the titles of the works, whose euphoria tries to contrast with his mute mood, and the violence of the self-portrait that rests on a gentle background, meekly decorative, kichón.

 

Now that I mention it, here is another visual clue that we can trace in his generation and in this series: the presence of kitsch without any shyness. Not as a result of a perversion of meaning, or the need for an alibi to talk about ideological or cultural emptying, not that. Not as “bad forms” but as something genetic and organic, of which, of course, there is no conscience. The kitsch that is not kitsch, that exists here in its pure state, without a subject that manipulates it, has reached its banal, disinterested status. At this point, it´s not worth it to take care of it.

 

Maikel´s work Narcisa lacks a subject and an individual but is full of character, cured of moral and ethical conflicts; alone and paralyzed in that somatic fiction of the inevitable fall that is melancholy. A person who writes a diary and not a biography. Who lives in a sensitivity dominated by the Trans: transparent, transgenic, transverse. Trans-dilemma.

Leonardo Rodríguez and Maikel Domínguez.