Born in Cuba in 1970, Hernández moved to Europe in 2003 and currently lives and works between Havana and Düsseldorf

Marlborough Contemporary

Ways of knowing by Timotheus Vermeulen for Frieze magazine On the installation, sculptures and drawings of Diango Hernández, Dec. 2014

The art of Diango Hernández defies easy categorization. Although much of his work is inspired by his experiences of Cuba – where he was born in 1970 and lived until the age of 33 – he is not an émigré artist in the vein of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Joseph Brodsky. And while many of his projects are concerned with displacement and origin, his work does not sit comfortably within the genre of diasporic ...

El exilio cubano como obra de arte por Barbara Celis para El confidencial Dec. 2013

ondres expone los trabajos de Ana Mendieta y Diango Hernández. Cuba desgarra y enamora, azota y abraza, se añora y se odia, duele por dentro pero también desde la distancia. Es difícil que la isla te deje indiferente, tanto si la has visitado como si sólo conoces su historia. Pero para los artistas cubanos parece inevitable que la isla se convierta en el ADN de su obra, aunque los buenos creadores no lo hagan de forma explícita. Dos visiones del arte marcadas por Cuba pueden explorarse estos días en Londres: por un lado una retrospectiva inaugurada ayer en la Hayward Gallery dedicada a Ana Mendieta (1948-1985), visceral, cruda, instintiva, donde el exilio obligado a los doce años y la pérdida del lugar de pertenencia fueron la chispa que encendió el camino hacia sus múltiples experimentaciones artísticas, truncadas por una muerte abrupta y oscura a los 36 años. Por otro lado una exposición individual de Diango Hernández (1970), un creador de una generación más reciente, hoy afincado en Alemania, marcado por otras circunstancias, que encuentra en la galería Marlborough Contemporary hasta el 26 de octubre un espacio para la reflexión y la ironía, donde su paso por la llamada ‘beca’ (internados donde los adolescentes cubanos trabajaban en el campo y estudiaban) se convierte en punto de partida para ahondar en la memoria. “Es precisamente en el origen, más allá de ser cubanos, que tenemos mucho en común. Ana Mendieta fue uno de los niños conocidos como Peter Pan, nombre que se le dio a ese plan macabro orquestado por La Habana y Miami que separó de sus familias en Cuba a más de 14.000 niños entre los años 1960 y 1962. Los niños fueron recolocados en 30 estados de los Estados Unidos, muchos de ellos ni siquiera llegaron a saber que habían nacido en Cuba. La obra de Ana Mendieta siempre me ha inspirado mucho al igual que la obra de Félix González Torres. Ellos, como muchos otros artistas cubanos, se han conectado con el mundo a través de su arte, con el mundo que en principio se les negó” explica Hernández a El Confidencial. Es la primera vez que una gran institución británica le dedica una retrospectiva a Mendieta, una artista en proceso de revalorización, difícil de clasificar, extrema, provocativa, doliente, que tocó múltiples disciplinas, partiendo de la performance y el body art para después explorar el land art con su propio cuerpo, la escultura, la fotografía, el dibujo… Comenzó su carrera en la universidad de Iowa, donde la violación de otra estudiante la llevó a introducirse en el mundo de la performance de temática feminista, dejando así de lado la pintura – “no es suficientemente real” decía-, para abrazar ese momento experimental por el que pasaron muchos artistas plásticos en los setenta, creando obras efímeras, intangibles, muchas de ellas utilizando su propia sangre y cuya permanencia en el tiempo depende del trabajo de documentación hecho por la propia artista. Mendieta tomaba docenas de fotografías de sus performances, que hoy pueden explorarse en la última parte de la muestra, donde se exhiben sus archivos personales por primera vez: hojas de contactos, cientos de diapositivas, películas de super-8, correspondencia… La exposición arranca precisamente con imágenes de algunas de sus primeras performances para después adentrarse en lo que se consideran sus mejores obras, las Siluetas, que realizó a lo largo de casi una década. Acompañada de por vida por el desgarro de haber tenido que abandonar Cuba, Mendieta comenzó a trabajar en sus siluetas en México, un país en el que encontró la conexión con la tierra que perdió tras su exilio. Excavaba su silueta en la arena y después le pegaba fuego, o utilizaba su propio cuerpo y lo enterraba bajo mantos de flores, o se momificaba en el barro… Sus siluetas, que ella definió como earth body sculptures tomaban en cierto modo la forma de rituales mágicos o funerarios, algo que también la conectaba con las tradiciones santeras de su Cuba natal. El que se hubiera sentido atraída por las costumbres y tradiciones relacionadas con la muerte y el renacer de los indígenas mexicanos y precolombinos incita a conectarlo con su propia muerte, como si hubiera sido una premonición fatalista. Mendieta se precipitó desde un piso 34 en Nueva York una noche de septiembre tras una discusión con su esposo, el escultor Carl Andre, quien fue juzgado y absuelto por su supuesto homicidio. Al caer, su cabeza dejó una silueta sobre la terraza en la que se incrustó. Desde entonces las oscuras circunstancias de su muerte se han interpuesto siempre entre la artista y su obra. De ahí que Stephanie Rosenthal, comisaria de esta exposición titulada Huellas, haya optado por obviar toda esa parte culebrónica que siempre se le dedica a Mendieta y se haya centrado en resaltar la fuerza y la energía de una carrera que de haber continuado posiblemente la hubiera convertido en una de las grandes artistas contemporáneas. Diango Hernández, hombre nuevo Diango Hernández, -al contrario que Mendieta-, creció y se educó en el régimen castrista, donde la idea de Hombre Nuevo, Mujer Nueva que da título a su exposición, se forja en las aulas escolares. “Todas mis libretas y cuadernos en la escuela primaria tenían impreso sobre sus cubiertas una frase de José Martí: ‘Ser cultos para ser libres’. Todo el proyecto educativo revolucionario se dirigía hacia esa dirección quimérica que es ser libres, ¿pero qué se puede hacer cuando lo culto sólo sirve a los intereses de una sola voz? ¿Se podría hablar de cultura sin libertad? Yo definitivamente creo que no. La cultura es únicamente la expresión de la libertad. Todo lo que hemos producido en ausencia de libertad es bochornoso y aquí no solo incluiría la educación en Cuba sino también las pirámides de Egipto” afirma. La exposición de Hernández, de 43 años, va más allá de la crítica velada al régimen cubano y la amplía a otros regímenes totalitarios. Una veintena de superficies grises de grafito, aparentemente vacías ocupan las paredes ...

Diango Hernández: The New Man by Ajay Hothi for Port Magazine, London 2013

jay Hothi meets with the Cuban artist on the opening of his first UK solo exhibition in London exploring the effects of a Communist upbringing and forced ‘collective identity’. Marlborough Contemporary on Albemarle Street, just south of Mayfair, feels like the quintessential West End private gallery. Its engineered wooden floors and snow coloured walls seem to predate the almost-comprehensive influence that the Conceptual Art movement had in transforming the grand academy galleries into the bare white cubes that have been so prevalent since the 1960s. The effect adds to the layers of uncertainty that surround the work of Diango Hernández. A series of mid-sized pictures line the gallery walls, except these pictures, on first impression, are blank. Actually, they’re graphite sculptures. Similarly, a steel bunk-bed in the corner of the gallery is also made of graphite, and on the wide vitrine that is the gallery’s centrepiece are a few blueprints, technical drawings and a small architectural maquette made of cheese. In their own way, all of these works seem – initially – unapproachable, particularly the cheese, which gives off a slight smell. “The stories are the beginning of my work. Only through the reading of the stories can you know my work.” Between the ages of 12-18, Hernández was sent from his home in Sancti Spíritus to a boarding school in rural Cuba. The aim of this school (one of many in post-revolutionary Cuba) was to embed in its students the Communist ideology. While half the school worked in the tobacco fields, the other half studied. They traded places in the middle of the day, and this was the common routine, six days a week for six years. “The family was contaminated with the ‘old’ ideology. The aim of the school was to produce the new individual: the new man or the new woman. It was based on collectivity. There was no privacy. There were no locks anywhere, even in the bathrooms and showers. This is one of the common features of fascist regimes; a sense of being united in work and study.” Close inspection of the graphite sculptures reveals their painstakingly precise detail. Hernández has etched an outline line drawing into the surface of each canvas: dogs, birds, farmyard animals. The effect is comfortingly intimate, even though the line drawing might be impossible to see, even at arm’s length from the image. Truly attendant viewing is dependent on the break of light. The story of these images is frighteningly disturbing. “These are drawings of porcelain figurines. They were made in a small factory in Allach, near Munich. The story of Central European porcelain is all about clean lines and smoothness, about trying to create a surface of such perfection and beauty. But in every form of beauty there is pain and suffering. Every collector of porcelain, when he gets his hands on a piece, admires it and then turns it upside down to see the stamp of where it was made. These pieces were made in a Nazi concentration camp, by concentration camp slave labour.” “For me, drawing is the source. There are many levels of language in drawing and even at its most technical there’s synchronicity between the people who know how to ‘read’ drawings, even if you’re in China or if you’re in the USA.” This reminded me of one my favourite quotes by Hernández, which I then repeated back to him: ‘A drawing is a vision of the future.’ “Drawings are very simple to understand. I like to think we could use drawing as a way of saying we can start again.” “In my fantasies there is a way to rewrite history if we draw. The blueprints of something are its tools, but they get forgotten and instead we have photographs and documentation. But drawing can be a fiction too, and I struggle with that. I wanted to make the drawings invisible. Imagine each canvas here is the surface of a pencil that has been magnified hundreds of thousands of times. These are drawings in the material. It’s absurd to me; you don’t see the drawings, you just see the material.” These aren’t works that can be held to criticism in the conventional manner. To understand them, you have to understand the artist’s motives, reactive sensations and beliefs and personal history. The German artist Dieter Ruckhaberle made a poster in protest to Documenta 4 in which he wrote ‘What’s left to do for artists of a nation that wages a criminal war such as the one in Vietnam…other than to make Minimal Art?’ and, as many critics have written since, minimalist forms better serve the clear communication of ideas. Hernández’s protest is political, for the future, but it’s also a protest against history. “At a certain point, contemporary art has to remove itself from any kind of cultural reference. I am totally aware of what it means to be in this gallery, on this street, in this city. I’m aware that I’m serving certain values. Being an artist is seen as one of the most noble and enriching things that you can do, but at the end of the day you are creating capital.” So is this why you made pictures that can’t be seen, an installation that’s incredibly fragile and an architectural model that will biodegrade? “These are all challenges for the gallery. Art is the value of the ideas behind the object. Unfortunately the value is often due to the artist and these objects and their references. Look, the Royal Academy is very close, and there are works of great value there. And who do you have there? The Masters! If you are in this academy system learning from the Masters, then what does that make you? The slave!”   source: Port Magazine, London ...

The New Man and The New Woman Solo exhibition at Marlborough Contemporary, London

“No-one” by Diango Hernández t is very early in the morning. The grass is covered with cold, dense dew. We haven’t even moved a hundred metres and my boots and trousers are already drenched and cold. The morning mist has turned my legs into two moving blades of grass. I try to walk as fast as I can and not to shiver, and I long for the sun to come up and make everything evaporate. An hour later, like we do every morning, we are all standing to attention like soldiers, each one of us facing an infinite furrow of exuberant tobacco plants. With our hoes in our left hands, we all shout in unison: “We will be like Che”. The tobacco plants and the weeds around them remain inert; our cry does not even move one leaf. Our voices quickly dissolve. It is worse each morning to work in silence. However, today I hear the same instruction, like a continuous, infinite echo that refuses to leave its cave. Throughout all those years I learnt how to differentiate the voices of my companions and today I manage to break the unity. I hear each voice separately and I am able to recognise each one of our faces as well as our minuscule bodies. Who amongst us is like Che? No-one! Who wants to be like Che? No-one! Who would have wanted to be like Che? No-one!   “The New man and the new woman” September 18 – October 26, 2013 Marlborough Contemporary 6 Albemarle Street London W1S 4BY +44 (0)20 7629 5161 marlboroughcontemporary.com Press release Diango Hernández links personal and collective memory, blurring the line between conflicting poetic and political points of view. Born in Cuba and now living in Düsseldorf, Germany, after having travelled the world, Hernández has acquired a reversed perspective on colonialism and political structures. An outsider everywhere, as much in Cuba as in Europe, he has invariably been shaped by his communist education. Hernández believes that all art is autobiographical but also incorporates the collective organised structures that give shape to history. This exhibition at Marlborough Contemporary, comprising all new works, draws on his past experience while growing up in Cuba. For example, when children reached 12 years of age, they would be sent to a boarding school until they were 18; the students worked in tobacco fields in the morning and studied in the afternoon. They were learning to be New Men and New Women, or so they were told. The teenagers were taught quotations of Che, including the words that triggered this body of work: ‘To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man and woman… Revolutionaries will come who will sing the song of the new man and woman in the true voice of the people…’ (Che Guevara) Creating a new man and a new woman, as a utopian concept, was not only perpetuated by communist regimes. It comes as no surprise that Hernández also references Germany and Italy’s fascist pasts. Hernández’s new drawings feature textured images due to the particular treatment of graphite on wood. Their source is a German porcelain factory catalogue of the 1930s: Allach produced appealing, low-cost porcelains, accessible to every house, due to concentration camp labour. On the other hand, Hernández also goes back to the architecture of the boarding schools in Cuba, ‘H’-shaped structures which share striking affinities with a project by the Italian architect Castiglioni. For his exams at the Milan Polytechnic, the architect created an ‘H’- shaped maquette for a fascist building. Of course, Castiglioni was making a critique of the regime as his choice of material suggests: his building was made out of cheese slices. Inspired by this contradictory coincidence of a building structured for rebellion and the communist education system – in Cuba, the ‘H’ buildings were gendered; boys and girls occupied separate wings and met in the middle to study – Diango Hernández has created a cheese maquette of his own. The New Man and the New Woman at Marlborough Contemporary is Diango Hernández’s first solo exhibition in the UK. Hernández will have solo shows at Mostyn, Llandudno and at Kunstverein Nürnberg in 2014. He has participated in many group shows in international institutions, such as MOMA in New York and the Hayward Gallery in London. His work has been presented at the 2005 Venice Biennale, the 2006 Biennales in São Paulo and Sydney and the 2010 Liverpool Biennial. A major solo exhibition was held at MART, Rovereto, in 2012. Diango Hernández ‘The New Man and The New Woman’ (El hombre nuevo y la mujer nueva) Es muy temprano en la mañana, toda la hierva esta cargada de un rocío frío y denso. No hemos avanzado ni siquiera 100 metros y ya mis botas y pantalones están empapados y fríos, la humedad de la mañana ha convertido mis piernas en dos tallos de yerbas andantes. Intento caminar lo mas rápido que pueda y no titiritar, espero deseoso a que salga el sol para que lo evapore todo. Una hora mas tarde, como cada mañana, ya estamos todos parados como soldados en posición de firmes cada uno de frente a un infinito surco de exuberantes plantas de tabaco, con nuestros azadones en la mano izquierda gritamos al unísono, ‘seremos como el Che’. Las plantas de tabaco y sus malas hierbas permanecen inertes, nuestro grito no logra mover ni siquiera una hoja, rápidamente nuestras voces se mezclan con lo peor de cada mañana: trabajar en silencio. Todavía hoy escucho la misma consigna, es como un eco continuo e infinito que se niega a abandonar su cueva. Durante todos estos años he aprendido a diferenciar las voces de mis compañeros y ya hoy logro romper el unísono, escucho todas y cada una de nuestras voces por separado y logro reconocer cada una de nuestras caras y también nuestros diminutos cuerpos. Quien de nosotros es como el Che? Nadie! Quien quisiera ser como el Che? Nadie! Quien ...

Art should get away from all political mess and move upwards to elevate everyone by Bárbara Celis for turnonart.com

The Allach catalogue is an amazing document. Often the history of the industry tells us more than any history book. The relationship between industry and ideology is evident in these documents, ones that are usually only considered as technical papers. I collect many catalogues of objects of all kinds and I have many on European porcelain, a subject that fascinates me, which I also studied for quite a ...

Marlborough Contemporary to hold first British Diango Hernández Show by Rob Sharp for blouinartinfo.com

iango Hernández’s schooldays are a source of inspiration and of terror: a 2010 show in Germany examined the fatal stabbing of a fellow pupil at his boarding school earlier in his life, and was a jumping off point for an examination of the Cuban educational system. The same period is also partly the focus of his first solo show in Britain later this year (from September 18, 2013). The exhibition, at Marlborough Contemporary, comprises completely new sculptures and works on paper and examines the Cuban government’s system of mandatory rural boarding school for students in the last three years of high school – thankfully a practice currently being phased out. In these schools, students were inculcated with the prospect of becoming a “new man,” or “new woman”, citizens Che Guevara hoped would ultimately be “selfless and cooperative, obedient and hard working, gender-blind, incorruptible, non-materialistic, and anti-imperialist.” Hernández has used another Guevara quotation, one also given to students during their education, as a way to segue into the themes considered: “To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man and woman… Revolutionaries will come who will sing the song of the new man and woman in the true voice of the people,” he said. The “new man” ideology had been widely used by various political systems before Cuba – and Hernández has examined this by using textured images in drawings referring to Allach, a low cost German porcelain factory of the 1930s that produced affordable porcelains through the use of concentration camp labor. “This exhibition has been more than a year in the making and it’s a big deal,” gallery director Andrew Renton told BLOUIN ARTINFO UK. “What I love about his work is that it’s never dogmatic or fist-thumping, it’s much more taking some personal moment from his own history where things intersect. It gives him a licence to reference the Cuban clichés of Castro or Che. “Because he’s been living in Germany for several years the work also becomes about someone who mediates his way around the world and finds things in common between one place and another that hadn’t been associated before. He’ll work through a series of things in one style, for example in a series of images on graphite boards that tell an entire story.” The artist will also expound upon a project by the Italian designer Achille Castiglioni, who as a student created an ‘H’ shaped design for a Fascist Cultural Centre using a maquette made of cheese as an implicit criticism of his then government. The similarities between this design and the structure of Cuba’s boarding schools will also be referred to by Hernández through the construction of a new maquette in the gallery. “He is also going to bring a bunk bed into the space which will resonate with his own history as to what it was like to be in those schools,” continued Renton. “None of this would work if he had a chip on his shoulder. He’s an upbeat optimistic guy. There’s a real pleasure in the gallery working with him and seeing him doing what he does. These works will become a history in themselves.”   “The New man and the new woman” September 18 – October 26, 2013 Marlborough Contemporary 6 Albemarle Street London W1S 4BY +44 (0)20 7629 5161 info@marlboroughcontemporary.com http://marlboroughcontemporary.com source: blouinartinfo.com ...

Visible (Homage to the square and colonialism) at ArtCologne 2013 with Marlborough Contemporary, London

he book pages with furniture images that I used for these series of collages come from a 1930′s German book about colonial furniture style. Still in the 18th century for many Europeans the Colonies were remote and dangerous places, only suitable for the adventurers minds, around the late 19th century the western world ‘rediscovered’ the colonies. For this time, as the Romantics did before with the ancient civilizations, the western world found a new spiritual refuge in the colonies. The so-called ‘Colonial style’ was coined in the early 20th century and the Colonial style package included: mystery and a ‘pure’ spiritual aura. Albers’ ‘Homage to the square’ extensive series of paintings and studies about color fields, is for me one of the most intriguing artistic strategies of the 20th century. As we know Albers introduced only subtle changes in the formal structure of these series of paintings, in his color field paintings the relevant changes come from the variation and perception of color itself. Albers’ ‘Homage to the Square’ represents to me an extraordinary reflection on perception in general. Formal changes are detected more easily by our senses but color changes are way more subtle, only the good and keen observer can tell when they have changed. The squares in Albers are for me isolated areas, they are well defined frontiers as if they were boundaries definitions in a colonial Mapa Mundi, only the colors can eventually change but the isolation and restrictions are a permanent circumstance, a formal and structural fatality. I altered the title of Albers’ series in the same way I decided to substitute in each painting a color filed by an strange layer (a book page). In this way the squares are no longer limits, they became stratus. They hold and give support to each other but unfortunately the ones under can’t be properly seen. I just forgot an speculative remark -The notion of order proposed / imposed by Germany in the actual European economy maybe represents a new beginning for colonialism. Albers was one of the German Bauhaus artists that contributed to define the ‘New laws’ of perception and understanding of co-relations between a physical fact and a psychic effect. The Gestalt psychologists greatly influenced Albers practice, specially Rudolf Arnheim. Order is a necessary condition for anything the human mind is to understand. Arrangements such as the layout of a city or building, a set of tools, a display of merchandise, the verbal exposition of facts or ideas, or a painting or piece of music are called orderly when an observer or listener can grasp their overall structure and the ramification of the structure in some detail. Order makes it possible to focus on what is alike and what is different, what belongs together and what is segregated. When nothing superfluous is included and nothing indispensable left out, one can understand the interrelation of the whole and its parts, as well as the hierarchic scale of importance and power by which some structural features are dominant, other subordinate. When order comes from disciplined creative processes could develop into a reactionary doctrine. Introducing doubts into logical order allows us to create mistakes, which are for me the fundamentals assets of positive development. One of the most known maxims of the Gestalt psychologists is: “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts” The last layer, let’s call it the visible and the one that can easily be removed, come from Fidel Castro’s speech about Che’s death in Bolivia. Somehow his death marked a very important moment for the post-colonial times. That’s the last layer of each one of the collages, a pinned floating book page, the only layer in that piece that can be easily replaced. I guess the only layer that can also easily be added to many other complicated juxtapositions of historical contemporary events. ...