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Tonel: Lessons of Solitude

Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver
April 6 2000 - June 4 2000


To The Weapons(1991),
mixed media on paper

Cuban artist Tonel (who goes by the singular name) was trained as a commercial illustrator in Cuba prior to the 1980s. His previously commercial illustrations of political events, literature and film have taken a satirical vein since 1981 and are considered to influence much of the artwork created in Cuba today. A foreground theme in this exhibit is that of a vexed and anxious masculine self-image, or what the Mexican people would call los pelados or "peeled ones". With their hereditary machismo repressed by hierarchies of authority and increasing censorship, the males of central American regions have been forced to assume a defiant moral stance in its place. Reflecting the collapse of the Cuban economy and the Revolution - now in its 41st year - Tonel, as an artist, critic, art historian and theorist, represents their plight in many of his drawings. Tonel has exhibited extensively in Havana, and, since the mid-80s, internationally as well, in such countries as Spain, Hungary, Japan, Columbia, Mexico and Costa Rica. The current exhibition is guest-curated by Cuban Eugenio Valdes.

© Mia Johnson