Monday, October 01, 2007

Elio Victores

I remember being taken aback by the first ''¡Cuba Sí!'' billboard I saw in Toronto. Unlike the US, Canada has good relations with the communist island nation, so there are package tours to Havana, outreach programs, and various forms of acculturation going both ways. I have yet to smoke a Cuban cigar, but I assume it's possible here.

The Cassucio Gallery on Queen Street East in Toronto features Cuban, Canadian, and International Art. If you go to their website, you will find that the Cuban selection is really first-rate stuff. I love the surreal H.R. Geiger as an architect drawings by Ramon Ruiz, as well as Juan Manuel's gorgeous and mind-blowing fantasy paintings. Having seen very little Cuban art, this stuff is a revelation.

For Nuit Blanche 2007, the Cassucio Gallery was showing the work of Elio Victores, some of which is pictured here. It might not be immediately obvious, but all of these are paintings in oil or acrylic on canvas. Victores is able to mimic the look of blurry photographs fairly well and many of his paintings look like clandestine Polaroids from some seedy back room. Many of them are also dramatic, or even melodramatic, in ways that recall celebrity gossip magazines or 1950s B-movies. His technical skill is impressive and all of the paintings are surprising, which is something I look for.

I don't know if the US embargo makes any difference in terms of art exhibits, but one can only hope that Castro's much-delayed death will allow Victores to gain a wider audience.

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