Ofill Echevarria



 




Made his debut as a member of the action and performance group "Arte Calle"
(Street Art) in 1988. While still studying at San Alejando, he established a radicalized guideline that differed greatly to the surrounding aesthetics-plagued with modern paradigms-of Cuban arts of the time.

His personal work and incentive already consisted of performance shows where gestures, the androgynous masks, techno-rock, cryptic texts, and the cultural dissidence were part of a fortuitous and experimental discourse, without any precedents within the refined panorama of the eighties. The spasm produced by his works came not only from the emotional arsenal of generation X that had not yet been accused upon receipt in Cuba, but of a program of transgression akin to the rock freaky groups of Havana, that by then were clandestine. Some years ago, Ofill started an investigation based on the registers of a new post-industrial sensibility. A vision created by the optic extensions of the virtual world and by a type of logical and structural articulation that stems from the system's technologies. His way of facing pictorial tradition, even modern tradition, consisted of considering it one more iconic arsenal.

Fragment from the exhibit The Intellectual Author of Gioconda, Nina Menocal Gallery.
Osvaldo Sánchez, July 1997

Escape from the City, Escape from the Future
 
There is that old story about the man who flees the noise of the city and later returns because the silence of the country keeps him from falling asleep. There is also O. Henry's tale about a farmer who makes his first trip to the city to take revenge on his enemy, but when he finds him feels so confused and afraid that all he can do is give him a hug. There is also Baudelaire's well-known vignette about a poet who prefers to leave his aureole of supreme artist in the mud rather than be run over by a car.
 
To dismiss the city as a symbol of everything that is excessive, chaotic and stifling is not, obviously, an exclusive phenomenon of the contemporary world, nor does it have its origins in the 19th century modernism. To have forgotten it, however, seems to form part of the ironic continuum of urban
change: from our megalopolises, those first modern cities exalted as being as idyllic as rural life has always been in comparison with the here and now of the big city. The most obvious irony, perhaps, is this modern-day farce that responds with mega-shopping centers, office buildings or leisure spaces, places that are so similar that not only can they be seen as anodynes, but also as a highly calculated re-appropriation-in other settings and with very distinct purposes-of that apparently discontinued codes of modern life. Spaces and types of behavior that are promoted as the future expressions of a supposedly global citizenry, and that appear to achieve the status of ideals when they are in keeping with lands in which expectations of a sound financial future are protected, marketed and coexist, and where the character of the executive who nurtures large corporations has become the trendy equivalent of professional success that, just a half century ago, still appeared to be reserved for doctors and lawyers.
 
To discern the alienation in the symbols that make up this imaginary world of success is just one of the well-fixed blades with which Ofill Echeverria has begun to dissect not only the complexity of contemporary urban affairs, but also that uncritical complicity that the educated adopt for that which is supposedly required by society rather than for a comprehensive cultural development. CITY Escapes is as much a questioning of the urban scene-visible or occult-as of the every day anguish between acceptance and rejection. This anguish, like his bilingual titles suggest, seems to propagate equally in a variety of places and cultures, or become even more acute in lands where migration is prevalent. Ofill Echeverria's warning about and his encapsulation of these intersecting points makes his work more than a painstaking urban chronicle, a major cultural study. There is a solid reflective distance, but it also leans toward his own weariness and anguish about a city -or several cities- where the only thing that is truly fathomable is a present that is no less uncertain that the future that is proposed.
 
Emilio Garcia Montiel
Writer and art critic, he recibed his doctorate in History of Arquitecture from the University of Tokyo and is a specialist in modern japanese urban culture. His published works include the essay "Muerte y resurreccion de Tokio"(El Colegio de Mexico, 1998) and a collection of poetry "El Encanto perdido de la Fidelidad" (cuban Critics' Price, 1992). He currently holds a teaching/research position at Cristobal Colon University in the City of Veracruz.