Friday May 25, 2018

Eduardo Abela Reinvents Cutting-Edge Technology

Constructed of wood, twelve works offer wry commentary on everyday Cuban life

Eduardo Abela Torrás, El Lap Top de los Mulatos, 2009

The latest works by Cuban artist Eduardo Abela Torrás (born Havana 1963) are currently on view in Popular Mechanics, an exhibition at Villa Manuela, a nonprofit art gallery hosted by the Union of Cuban Artists and Writers. Abela Torrás is the grandson of Eduardo Abela, one of the most important Cuban avant-garde painters of the 1930s. Trained as an engraver, Abela Torrás has published graphic humor pieces in Cuban magazines, and his work irreverently appropriates many iconic images from art history.

The exhibition includes twelve works made in the manner of Joseph Cornell’s boxes, but without Cornell’s surrealist tone. The handmade wooden boxes—belonging to a pre-industrial culture—incorporate objects found or purchased on the street, which the artist has mixed with fragments of engravings, caricatures, and old photos. The result is a seris of flat-screen computers for surfing a peculiar Internet. The websites refer to customs, iconic characters, and ceremonies of everyday Cuban life: the peanut-seller, stores where basic commodities are distributed, school snacks, Spanish emigrants, and the sensual mixed-race woman.

Popular Mechanics showcases a typically Cuban “portable computer,” made from a wooden suitcase holding a gas cooker and a portrait of the artist—biographical reference points well known to Cubans of his generation. Humorously demystifying “cutting-edge technology,” Abela offers a satiric but close-up view of Cuba in the 21st century.