Hector Frank – Seeing the World Through Empty Stares at the Menier Gallery
The Cuban art scene is one which is still relatively unknown to the rest of the world, but since the relaxation of travel restrictions in 2013, local artists have begun to make themselves known thanks to the increasing interest of international collectors. One such artist is Havana-born Hector Frank, who has been exhibiting since 2001 in the US, Mexico, France, Belgium and Malaysia, as well as throughout his home country, and has now come to Southwark’s Menier Gallery for his UK debut.
Seeing the World Through Empty Stares presents unnerving portraits of humanoid faces staring blankly forward, like a row of Easter Island stone statues. Their primitive aura is awakened through the painter’s signature basic shapes, strong lines and vivid colours, and a textural quality created by fusing a variety of media and techniques. The scraping and dripping of pigments on the canvas, and the application of textiles and other materials, create a relief effect recalling folk art.
Frank explains his objective as attempting to visualise two or more faces simultaneously: the face that is visible to the outside world, and the inner face, the one we see and keep – or at least attempt to keep – private. Some of the most interesting pieces are those which depict faces with real cord sticking out from the sides of the head, symbolising headphones. The eyes of these individuals stare into space, with one face pocked by colours, animating the mask-like visage with a musical rainbow of imagined sensations. The other is less positive, the white staring bust contrasts starkly, like a blind robot, against the plain black background.
Frank’s paintings are all aesthetically pleasing, even stimulating, and recall the types of art produced in the eclectic 1980s when artists sought inspiration from the past and from other cultures. Most critics have since dismissed such work as the lifeless rehashing of earlier achievements. The exhibition’s concept – a simple, yet always fascinating aspect of humanity – is intriguing but not very original, and rendered here in an unimaginative way. They are reminiscent of the kind of paintings viewed in a hotel lobby; pretty, thoughtful, but hardly memorable or moving. For that, a more in-depth look of the dynamics of the human condition would be required.
Hector Frank: Seeing the World Through Empty Stares is at the Menier Gallery from 27th September until 1st October 2016, for further information visit here.
For further information about Hector Frank visit here.