El Museo del Barrio: La Bienal 2013.

By Raúl Zamudio

“…the paintings of Bernardo Navarro Tomás are cathartic, dense, and physical and executed with a refined abrasiveness. Cultivating an aesthetic vocabulary distilled from, among other sources, German Expressionism, George Grosz, Phillip Guston, broadsides, protest signage, and political graffiti found on walls, the works for Here Is Where We Jump are adamantly oppositional. For the exhibition, Tomas will present paintings based on his upbringing in Cuba and Fidel Castro’s cult of personality. The canvases are forceful via a variety of compositional techniques and tropes. A formal tactic that has become a Tomas stylistic is pushing the figures to the foreground and flattening of space; this gives his pictures a kind of deflated yet gorgeously raw quality as his imagery operates like emblems that eschew academic mimeticism. This placement of his figures seem to give a nod to the viewer as well as what’s inside the picture plane, subsequently repositioning the former as implicated spectator than detached observer. This is emphasized in the depictions of Fidel in his ubiquitous megalomaniacal orations: not only are the masses being addressed in a kind of Cuban Triumph of the Will, but the viewer is subsumed into the narrative thus symbolically becoming part of the collective subservience. Some works are ostensibly about tyranny under Castro, while in other paintings subject matter is wider in scope.

This is evinced in Rebelion En La Granja (Animal Farm) (2008) in which the artist depicts three pigs in the gesture of “speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil.” The pigs, however, are dressed in camouflage army uniforms, don beards, and one of the pigs is actually peaking through his fingers thus emphasizing Big Brother. This Orwellian reference is, of course, also underscored by the parenthetical title’s citation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel about pre-Soviet Revolutionary Russia.”