This personal show by Jose Manuel Fors is a tribute, through the piece “Candies – Homage to Félix González-Torres”, to one of the artists from Cuba with the greatest international impact; and with him, to a whole generation which was victim to the events of its time. Félix González-Torres and José Manuel Fors are two artists who, due to the historical circumstances in which they lived, formed and carried out their work without hearing from each other.
Fors studied and worked in Cuba at a time when minimal information came in or out. A member of the group “Volume I”, he contributed, along with the rest of the participants to the group, to change the way in which art was seen on the island. They stopped emphasizing the “luck of the present” to begin to question, from the past, the reality which they were living. They became a deeply political generation, precisely because the themes of their work were not. Possibly, the very first show after the Revolution to be held in a private locale, took place at Fors’s house in 1979. This exhibition was titled “Fresh Painting”, and all the members of what later became known as “Volume I” participated, together with other artists – like Carlos Alfonzo.
González-Torres left Cuba very early: he lived, studied, and developed his work outside the island. He was always a very active and committed artist, from his participation as a member of the artistic collective known as “Group Material”, to his later work in which, among other topics, he spoke openly about homosexuality and AIDS. The point of union between the two artists, beyond the obvious difference of contexts and social realities, was the use of international languages and discourses inherent to the art of the time: minimalism, recycling, accumulation, installation, “attitude”, etc. – everything put in function of investigating the past, through a profoundly metaphorical and intimate discourse, which is also autobiographical.
Fors’s work is indeed deeply self-referential. He uses the family environment in order to find meaning in the past, where the codes that could unravel the present inhabit. All his work is composed of pieces of information which he has collected over time, and where nothing is subject to prejudice if it can be used. His first pieces were composed with photos taken by his father. From then on, he began to exploit photography as a way to save memories, and to save images, which were subjected to being used over and over again, in different bodies of work. Recycling memories allowed him to build the one memory he wanted, because fragments that come from the past can be rearranged, as if history had not yet been written.
It is good to clarify that Fors is not a photographer. As he says, for him photography is the same as a brush for a painter, just a tool. His work confirms it. What I do believe he is, and what he felt better at being from the very beginning, is an installation artist, one who uses all types of materials to create his works, chosen from among dry leaves, postcards, objects, notes, pieces of paper, ropes, photographs or fragments of photographs, etc.