On Accumulations, Homo Aestheticus and Millennials
By Isdanny Morales Sosa
Accumulation seems to be a symptom that is becoming more acute in our time. We accumulate information, objects and experiences in physical spaces, but also in virtual ones. Our bodies and existences are built from everything we accumulate. The objects become extension of the bodies, to the point where, metaphorically, they are fused. The object is humanized and man is objectified. Contemporary art has poeticized on this subject from different angles, as well as movements like Dadaism, pop or the new realism of Schwitters, Warhol, Arman or Christo.
A specific approach to the series Layers by Abel López could lead us to think that his central theme is the portrait or enhancement of collage as artistic technique. However, the axis of these pieces is neither the exact generation of individualized portraits nor the mere formal recreation in the collage. Through these works we indeed discover the construction of a portrait, but more a collective one than generic, from the reiteration of a prototype, the aura of a generation that in recent years has been called millennial and materialized through iconic elements such as the vintage aesthetics, the appropriation of features of the animeimage, the obsession with technology, the use of strident colors and, above all, the over-aestheticism of the bodies until creating a postmodern horror vacui. The figuration of this artist recreates impersonal beings that, more than individuals simulate androids or in any case humanoid machines, which is also in tune with the millennial aura, a generation also related to the one that theorists, already decades ago, considered was deprived of essential reasons to guide their existence.
The faces are articulated with the expressive codes of Pop language and the collage technique, specifically through the accumulation, combination and dialogue of various objects and materials, mostly technological: videocassettes, compact discs, remote controls, ad clippings, cardboards, fabrics, labels, buttons, and toys, among others. Accumulation is, therefore, a concept of which also these pieces could speak: how this millennial generation appropriates objects of various kinds and how the action of accumulating is, perhaps, somehow the telos to guide and write about the life of many subjects in the contemporary world. This is how the objectification of existence and the humanization of the inanimate appear; according to his works, in addition, the taste for the frivolous, the tangential and perishable, traits that produce a “postmodern sensibility”, with the additional use of aerosol or spray paint to give the pieces a plastic, artificial and shiny appearance.
In Layers, Abel López makes a visual and poetic essay of the over-aestheticism experienced by the contemporary world, particularly the most developed countries. The faces of these young people, as well as the shoes of hisAll Star series are a metonymy of today’s society, where everything is liable to be rendered aesthetic and then marketed: science, articles of daily use, the body, violence… As commented by Wolfang Welsch: “The individuals are engaging in a comprehensive design of body, soul and behavior. The homo aestheticus has become the new model that is imitated”.1 A homo aestheticus that is also turned into a show and exhibited through the selfie culture, a visual resource exploited by the artist in his pieces, turning the private experience into a public one. Man builds himself by accumulating layers and presents himself in the public space as part of that large network of circulation of potentially marketable images and objects. In short, the work of this young artist carefully recreates one of the most recurrent imageries of our time: that of the spectacular, the aestheticism, and consumption.
1 Wolfang Welsch. Actualidad de la estética, estética de la actualidad. Colección Criterios, La Habana, 2011, p. 14.