The metaphysical landscapes of Alejandro Campins.

By Laura Salas Redondo


“The metaphysical landscapes of Alejandro Campins”, by Laura Salas Redondo. ART Nexus, No. 106, September – November, 2017.

The Cinema Teatro Nuovo, where for the first time arrived cinema to San Gimignano, the Tuscany city stopped in the Middle Ages, was active for 34 years. One day, no one else went to see movies; it was “abandoned” due to the modernization of the audiovisual consumption. Something similar happened with the movie-theater Águila de Oro (Golden Eagle) in the Chinatown of Havana. There the inhabitants of the neighborhood, little by little, as a result of the impoverishment of the place, were refunctioning the space. The common denominator of both movie-theaters is that they currently function as headquarters of the Galleria Continua in the respective cities.

Between May 14 and August 28, 2017 the exhibition by the Cuban artist Alejandro Campins entitled «Public Declaration» is presented. This –his first solo show in Italy– is located in Galleria Continua, in its original headquarters of San Gimignano. The space, called Arco dei Becci, fraternizes dialogically with the six works exhibited since Alejandro thought and executed each one especially for this site. In the city coexist, among other extensions of Continua, solo exhibitions of the English Anthony Gormley and the Indian Subodh Gupta; and the galleria has as a scoop to show in parallel young people and known figures in the world of international contemporary art, creating a strong intergenerational dialogue and between different cultures.

Within the creative corpus of Campins, the series «Public Declaration» begins in 2015 with a great painting, the monumental Nido (Nest). This gave way to a succession of works shown together with other talented Cuban artists at the first exhibition of Galleria Continua at its headquarters in Havana. Nido (Nest), with almost the same format as a cinema screen, was adapted to the stage of the Águila de Oro (Golden Eagle), where it was placed overlapping in a tautological way the royal tribune and the one recreated in the painting.

In the last sixty years in Cuba, the revolutionary government built numerous open-air tribunes in each town: scenarios to animate the inhabitants with films and theater shows and to perform glorious representations that spread their doctrines. Today several of these spaces are completely empty, the official neglect has taken over them; unattended and full of vegetation, serve as a platform for the youngest to play. This change of «usefulness» is for Campins an open declaration, the historical load of the place is narrated, in the same gesture, in an ironic way. The images of idle platforms tell a story where apparently nothing happens, but in reality they are great allegories of the present. Devoid of human presence and the notion of time, they disturb us and call our attention. Curiosity appropriates us and we want to know why there is no one in these metaphysical scenes, why there are only empty spaces. For some years Campins has taken on the landscape in a unique way, breaking with the possible «affability» with which the History of Art has categorized this genre. That is why in the series he includes these huge cement blocks, images of a real place that he has visited, photographed and drew before. These processes are developed independently, but at the same time they connect to reach to the creation of his canvases –in many occasions colossal– in which the artist works in a methodical way.

As in many of his works of recent years, the palette of grays and blues is predominant. It is a nostalgic blue that does not become green and that I prefer to call «blue Campins». This color, omnipresent in each of these works, helps to generate a timeless atmosphere far from the clichés of tropical light. The only work in the sample on other support is the fresco project that he makes in the Arco dei Becci niche. It represents a real space of Cuba located in Tuscany, but sifted by the representation «in the Giotto´s way». It is no coincidence that Campins wanted to do this homage in the land of the masters before the Renaissance. From his first visit to San Gimignano, a little over a year before connecting with his passion for the history of Italian art he has studied so much and this was his way of paying tribute.

With this emotional exhibition, with an accessible language and depth of thought, we are invited to introspection. This surprised both the initiates and the neophytes present on the day of the inauguration. Alejandro proposes us a recovery of the memory valuing these forgotten places, but at the same time presents a reflection on the painting itself, certainly because he is a great painter, but also because he achieves to make these «metaphysical spaces speak of his own history» as well he confirms.