AN ARTIST WHO REFLECTS AND QUESTIONS
MARIANNE DE TOLENTINO
TONY CAPELLAN, DOMINICAN CONTEMPORARY ART
by Marianne de Tolentino
Contemporary art questions itself. It is not only the more traditional segment of artists and critics that questions it; its own adherents regularly revise its criteria. This is a positive fact as doubt can bring about faith and passion. It is among the incredulous that the believers emerge, who in turn become fanatics of experimentation and the new aesthetics. In fact, there is no crisis in art nor in its values. The need of a change in expression – and the conviction that art and life are one and the same thing – emerges more frequently in the last few generations and just as strongly in some of their predecessors.
In the Dominican Republic, a country in which painting has always prevailed, sculpture is seldom attempted and design and graphic art are misunderstood – installations were able to integrate the diverse materials and procedures and to pave the way to an encompassing version of the artistic conception. It was precisely in São Paulo in 1978, in its only exclusively Latin-American biennial, which had Myths and Magic as its theme, that an installation by a Dominican artist was presented for the first time. Its author, Jorge Severino, created an environment which displayed, among other elements, an altar, several objects and images and the skeleton of a peasant’s home. Today it would be too expensive to exhibit it due to the high transportation costs.
However, since the early ’90s installations have flourished both in quantity and sometimes in quality. Among the artists who work in San Domingo, besides the pioneers Jorge Severino and Soucy de Pellerano, we can cite Danicel, Tony Capellán, Jorge Pineda, Belkis Ramírez.There are also the “absent installers” like Marcos Lora Read and Rachel Payewonsky.
That is the reason why we remarked that “environments and installations have their devotees and the youngsters are not submitted to the academic rule and as a result we find a mix of archaism and sophistication, of Caribbean spirit and universal vision; Tony Capellán being the most endowed and fecund among them.” ( La Revista, Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe, number 14, June 1992).
Now Tony Capellán, who again represents the Dominican Republic after having been granted the first prize from UNESCO last year, presents a change in his subject and in the ambiance of his installations. Besides choosing the tropical magic and the fantastic imagery for his research, he adds the problems and drama that affect the Dominican Republic and most Latin-American countries – as well as the whole world – to his work.
His work acquired a disquieting feature, a result of indignation, questioning and reflection and intends to cause reflection, indignation and questioning in the spectator. We have deliberately changed the order of the nodes in the “reaction” process. Tony Capellán acts according to the Brechtian theory, causing amazement, establishing a physical and intellectual distance between ourselves and the displayed objects. After the initial surprise and shock, a mechanism of interpretation is activated which – in its turn – impacts our sensibility and conscience.
There is no room for innocence… except the victim’s. The containers are displayed, identical and equidistant, lighted by bulbs that, as in the former installations, suggest the atmosphere of jail. In it float the pieces of conviction, all stained. The circular shape of the containers signal the unavoidable character, with no beginning and no end, of aggression and abuse.
Inspired in a fact that no doubt happens nearly always and everywhere – the violation of minors in prison – Tony Capellán’s installation acquires a local and universal symbolic dimension. In an inexorable and acute way, it is violence in general that is denounced, working “physiologically” as a set of body/prison cells that represent the defenseless. The allusion to blood, platelets and evidence of another calamity of our era – AIDS – is also present in Manchas – the connotative and denotative title of the work.
As in other installations designed and carried out by Tony Capellán, poetry emerges through the somber subject. But not humor… while in a work done at the same time, La Pasión Después de Monet, the metaphor, which is multisignificant, does not preclude a smile. The preserved nymphs – as they are not roses – remind us of other thorns and to the allegory of stinging pain. Again the artist transmutes his period and life.
Tony Capellán was able to “dematerialize” the artistic conventions according to the theme proposed by the 23a.Bienal Internacional de São Paulo, adding to the fine-arts visuality the commitment to the anguish of reality.
Born in Tamboril, Dominican Republic, he studied at the arts department of Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo. Attended several relief engraving courses, intaglio and serigraphy, the latter at the Art Student League of New York. Lives and works in Santo Domingo.
Casa de Francia, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Marcha Forzada, Casa das Bastidas, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Preguntas sin Respuesta, Centro Europeo de Cerámica, Holland; Exportadores de Almas, Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Kábalas, Galería Nader, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Galería Nacional de Arte Contemporáneo, San José, Costa Rica; Utopías, Museu de las Casas Reales/Casa de Bastidas, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Mitos del Caribe, Museo de Arte e Historia de San Juan/ Galería Raíces, Porto Rico; Amuletos, Casa de Francia
Trucamelos, Galería Raíces, San Juan, Porto Rico; Zona Mágica, Casa de Bastidas, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Trazos Ceremoniales, Culturais, Plaza de la Cultura de Santiago, Chile
Mitología y Ritos, Galería de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Obsesiones Cotidianas, Museo de las Casas Reales, São Domingos, Dominican Republic
Xilografías, Sala de Exposições, Biblioteca Nacional; Grabados, Casa de Bastidas, Santo Domingo,Dominican Republic; Ruínas del Gran Hotel, Managua, Nicaragua
Figura de Tiempo, Círculo de Coleccionistas, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Africus, I Johannesburg Biennale, Johannesburg, South Africa;Reaffirming the Spiritual, El Museo del Barrio, New York, United States
22ª Bienal Internacional de São Paulo, Brazil
Pintura del Caribe y Centroamérica Hoy, Museu de Arte Moderna da América Latina, Washington, United States; Salón de Verano, Centro de Art Nouveau, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; 3º Salón Nacional de Dibujo, Galería Arawak; Museo de Arte Moderno; Pasaporte, San Juan Conservation Studio, Porto Rico; Carib Art, exposição intinerante da/travelling exhibition of Unesco; Los Jurados Exponen, Concurso La Joven Estampa, Casa de las Américas, Havana, Cuba; 10ª Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano y del Caribe, San Juan, Porto Rico; Festival Internacional de Fotografia: Fin de Milenio, Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
1ª Bienal de Pintura del Caribe y Centroamérica; África en América, Vigo, Spain; Encontro com os Outros, Kassel, Germany; Pintura Contemporânea Dominicana, Israel; Concurso Internacional de Escultura, Quebec, Canada; Feria Internacional de Arte de Bogota, Colombia; 18ª Bienal Nacional de Artes Visuales
10ª Bienal Internacional de Valparaíso, Chile; 23º Festival Internacional de Pintura, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France; 9ª Bienal de San Juan de Grabado Latinoamericano y del Caribe, SanJuan, Porto Rico; 4ª Bienal de la Habana, Cuba
13º Concurso de Arte E. León Jimenes, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Santo Domingo-Paris, Casa de Francia; Sculpture of the Americas into the Nineties, Museu de Arte Moderna da América Latina, Washington, United States; 9ª Trienal Internacional de Gravura (Intergraphic), Germany.
2º Festival Ibero-Americano de Arte e Cultura, Brasília, Brazil; Exposición Certamen de Joven Pintura Dominicana, Casa de Francia; Los Estandartes de la Libertad, Paris, France; 8ª Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano y del Caribe, San Juan, Puerto Rico
La Joven Estampa, Casa de las Américas, Havana, Cuba; 12º Concurso de Arte E. León Jimenes; Arte Dominicano Actual, Museo de Arte e Historia de San Juan, Porto Rico; Três Artistas Dominicanos Contemporâneos, Hostos Art Gallery, New York, United States
25 Jóvenes Pintores Dominicanos para las Américas, OEA, Casa de Bastidas, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
5ª Exposición Mini-Grabado, Cadaqués; Barcelona, Spain; Taller de Jóvenes Criadores, 12º Festival Mundial da Juventude e dos Estudantes, Moscow, Russia; Bienal de Grabado de Quito, Ecuador
Mostra Internacional de Arte Correo por La Paz, Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; 6ª Mostra de Gravura Pan-americana, Curitiba, Brazil; 16ª Bienal Nacional de Artes Plásticas.
6ª Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano.
UNESCO Promoción de las Artes Prize
1ª Bienal de Pintura del Caribe y Centroamérica, medalha de ouro, Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; 18ª Bienal de Artes Visuales, prêmio especial de desenho
10ª Bienal de Arte de Valparaíso, menção honrosa, Valparaíso, Chile; Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano, first prize, San Juan, Porto Rico; 23º Festival Internacional de Pintura de Cagnes-sur-Mer, Jury prize and Public prize, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France
17ª Bienal Nacional de Artes Visuales, 1º Prêmio Nacional de Gravura.
Concurso Bicentenario de la Revolución Francesa, Premio Ex-Aequo de Pintura, Casa de Francia; 1º Salón Nacional de Dibujo, drawing prize, Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
XXIII BIENAL DE SAU PAULO