There are times – perhaps many – when definitions and classifications get right in the way of more authentic descriptions. And calling Alexis Cardona an artisan – in the more popular, contemporary use of the word – or his work popular arts and crafts does neither him nor his work justice.
Cardona (now 50 years old, a former electrician and completely self-taught) has reached, in my humble opinion, the final part of the definition proposed by the Oxford English; that …´´Artisans practice a craft and may through experience and aptitude reach the expressive levels of an artist´´.
The Suffering of Slavery
His work so far – which has already attracted the attention of various collectors – is figurative and deals almost exclusively with the suffering of slavery; women carrying wood, men and women working on railroad constructions or on sugar plantations.
Depictions of this forced, onerous labour are detailed, anguished, compelling. That they have been placed in various national exhibitions as examples of ´´cultural heritage´´ means that they can, unfortunately, be experienced in an almost folkloric manner. This belies their raw power and the extraordinary skill of the artist himself.
Cardona himself has, as yet, worked little with abstractionism although I found these figures (unfinished, for him), thrown together in a corner of his extremely modest workshop, almost more powerful than his set pieces. Equally, the small feet – of a slave adult and child: potent symbols of what, for Cardenas, is an untold, forgotten story that he is dedicated to telling.
To discover more of Cardona’s artistry and the work of some of the most famous contemporary artists, take one of our art tours around the country to see the most popular art in Cuba.