Nelson Cabán (USA/Puerto Rico)

October 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Homenaje A Los DesaparecidosMixed Media on Canvas, 25.5 in x 21 in, 64.77 cm x 53.34 cm, 2012.

 This work was inspired by personal research on social conflict and resolution throughout South America, Africa and the United States. A common finding noted throughout my travels is the resiliency of children in the face of tremendous social and political disruptions. They simply want to play, smile, imagine and enjoy the simple pleasures of innocence and childhood. This work depicts children playing football despite the ever present gaze of the State, shown in the guise of the police, the Church, and the military. It is dedicated to “los desaparecidos” of Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil and Sierra Leone.

AR-L: Would you please tell us about the various other projects you’ve been involved in during the past months? I know you started your new business and would like for you to tell us more about that…

NC: 2012 has been absolutely wonderful for me professionally. At the onset of the year, I incorporated my studio in Hong Kong and hired an assistant to help handle projects and source materials in the Asia-Pacific region. Being in Asia has allowed me to work with newer materials such as fiberglass and neon that would be cost-prohibitive for an artist such as myself, so I am adding a wider array of works to the mix for future projects. Specifically, Hong Kong is a great location as it is currently the third largest art market in the world, with easy access to clients in high-growth economies such as China and Indonesia. In the last three month my work has been shown in Chicago, Paris, Hong Kong, New York and of course, Philadelphia, and for two of those shows I had added neon sculptures to the mix of my traditional painting work.

AR-L: Your piece for the Diálogo 465: CARPE DIEM exhibition is about one of the harsher realities of life in Latin American, and I was hoping you’d tell us more about how you came up with the idea for it, what sort of research or travels led you to envision it, etc.

NC: My first proposal for Diálogo 365 was a bit different from the work that was accepted and currently on displayed in City Hall. My work dealing with Latin America usually contains overt political imagery, however I was compelled to think outside of my traditional theoretical paradigm. I came across a book of aphorisms, Gregurías by Ramón Gómez de la Serna and found this quote, “Los globos de los niños van por la calle muertos de miedo” and the inspiration came. The quote tied in with research of the Trujillo, Videla, Franco, and Stroessner dictatorships that I have incorporated in various paintings and writing over the years. In addition, this work was also informed by personal conversations with survivors of the Videla dictatorship in Argentina, whom remembered vividly how the young children of Buenos Aires maintained their innocence and ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood amidst all the chaos. 

AR-L: What can you tell our readers about the relationship, if you perceive any, between your career of an artist and your experience as a Latino working internationally. 

NC: Being a latino living in Asia from the last two years has definitely been a unique experience. There are only about 4 other latino visual artists in Hong Kong and I am the only Puerto Rican, so every conversation I have with the Chinese is an adventure filled with broken English and lots of hand gestures. Being different in appearance from others in Hong Kong helps in a sense because people are naturally curious to know what I am doing in Asia, which allows me the opportunity to introduce them to my work and engage them in dialogue. Outside the novelty of my ethnicity, art is universal and has its own visual vocabulary. I am not hindered in the same regard that, lets say, a musician would be in terms of language. Leaving North America was one of the best decisions that I made in my profesional career. It is has been said, “No one is a prophet in their own land”.

AR-L: Are there any current or upcoming projects you want to tell us about?

NC: I will featuring new works in neon and fiberglass at the Asia Contemporary Art Show in February 2013 at Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong. Neon has been my favorite medium of late and I am working on building up a series of 5-6 different works for the show. Outside of that, I will be having my first official gallery show in Hong Kong in March of 2013 during the period of Art Walk, which is one of the premium art events in Hong Kong. In addition, there are preliminary talks to open a 6 month annex of my taller in Shanghai in the second quarter of 2013, which is excited for me because, in my opinion, Shanghai is the most dynamic city in the world for artists at the moment. Big plans for the new year. ¡Ojalá!

AR-L: Since another of the “carpe diem” themes is the idea of the harvest: is there a favorite recipe you’d like to share with us?

NC: Such a fun question. I am vegetarian so my recipe will probably not be as exciting as others but here goes:

  •  2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 cups greek yogurt
  • some chopped fresh dill
  • fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 cucumber diced
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons crushed dried rose petals (yum!)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries

And ta-dah: you have some epic Persian Yogurt Dip that goes perfectly with just about ANYTHING! ¡Pa’lante!

-Nelson Cabán



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You are currently reading Nelson Cabán (USA/Puerto Rico) at Diálogo 365: CARPE DIEM @ Art in City Hall.


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