Exhibition by José Toirac, Mario Jorge Toirac Marrero and José Mauro Toirac Marrero. Gallery Casa 8, 8 street Nr. 306 between 13 and 15, Vedado. January-February 2018

A round trip to Neverland

by: Rafael Acosta de Arriba

Why did we so easily forget the child we were? This question seems to gravitate over the entire exhibition Once upon a time...and much more, by the renowned artist José Ángel Toirac, now together with his two sons, Mario Jorge and José Mauro.

As is known, the arcane of childhood is absolutely closed. When it leaves its premises we lose the codes that configure it. Then we take distance and it becomes a land of oblivion and longing. There lies part of its attractiveness, in a hermeneutic characterized by the charm of time gone by and irretrievable ingenuity. The sciences and the arts have tried to decipher this codified universe and have not fully succeeded in doing so. With this sample Toirac and his sons have joined the deciphering attempt.

Once upon a time...and much more, areas of the child universe are recreated from a keen metaphorical capacity, which has always been present in Toirac's work. The relationship between children's stories and fables and the behaviour, myths and habits of adulthood is examined in these pieces. There is in them a bit of the Toirac family history as well as the signical will of the three artists to construct a narrative from the poetics of that fabulous Neverland that obsessed and fascinated us at the time.

A children's history book, Cuentos y estampas, by V. Suteiev, 1973 (Editorial Progreso, Moscow and Editorial Gente Nueva, Cuba), provided the main pivot for many of the drawings and the tone of the exhibition. According to Toirac himself, this was one of the books that most impacted him during his childhood and many of the images in the exhibition emerge from the iconography of the volume, a book full of stories from beginning to end and gratified by the Russian author.

Another moment of the exhibition alludes to the pregnancy that has always had the image of Che Guevara in the work of Toirac. His drawings on the mythical revolutionary personality, intervened by one of his sons, appear in one of the exhibition halls of Casa 8, confirming the importance of the Argentine guerrilla within the symbolism never naïve of Toirac.

If the cultural world of man in a general way is the universe of meaning, the world of images is that where meaning reaches its greatest expression. Toirac manifested his creative motto when he said, many years ago: "The objective of my work is to reformulate those mechanisms of representation that give meaning and meaning to reality, that present facts in an apparently neutral and objective way. My methodology is, on the one hand, to deconstruct the instituted images of cultural memory, on the other, to exhume those that have been excluded and marginalized by selective tradition.

Well, in Once upon a time...and much more, the journey back and forth to memories and nostalgia has allowed the artist to strengthen his symbolic capacity, to become even more the owner of a critical metaphor with which to seek his post-modern truths and chimeras and, as has always been habitual in his work, has also allowed him to open up a new path of research into art and from art.

The so expensive subject of History (with a capital letter) for Toirac acquires with Once upon a time...and much more a connotation another, a new experimental way to enter into topics very dear to our culture (and to him), such as the Virgin of Charity of Copper, the spiritual mother of Cubans, the aforementioned figure of Che Guevara, eroticism, sensuality and the certainty that true wisdom resides in knowing each other intimately, among others.

The three predominant colours, white, grey and black, the recurring image of the three wise monkeys, full of meanings and the animals in erotic postures, are other forms through which the artist establishes his code of signs, his transtextual and polysemic transfers, as well as his symbolic recyclages, all resources that are displayed in the exhibition.

The journey of any cultural tradition is a return journey, an exhaustive journey through the length and breadth of a culture, a permanent return from its values, myths and concepts. Toirac knows this and his work has travelled this itinerary more than once, as if to tell us that this constant and cyclical return of culture and memory is the path that the artist must take if he wants to find his truths. With this exhibition, carried out jointly with his two sons, Toirac travels again and surprises us from the seriousness and lubricity that the impossible return to childhood entails.