Rafting Through Memory on a Watermelon Boat: The Art of Rivero-Cintra

Through his surrealistic paintings, Cuban artist Juan Carlos Rivero-Cintra invites viewers to engage in “mental displacement,” a term he uses to describe an individual’s internal exploration of his or her mind as if it were a physical space, focusing on dreams, imaginings, and memory.

In “Memories As Metaphors. Works by Juan Carlos Rivero-Cintra,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at Beatriz Esguerra Art in Bogota, the artist presents oil paintings and watercolors that picture individuals on these mental journeys, many of which feature tiny travelers making their way through the rivers of the mind on boats that take the forms of lushly rendered fruits and vegetables. 

In Memories as Metaphors No. 1 (2014), a man in a baseball cap rows a watermelon vessel by the banks of a landscape made of the seeded flesh of another watermelon; Memories as Metaphors No. 11 (2015) depicts a swimmer pushing past floating tomatoes; and in Memories as Metaphors No. 24 (2014), a man in an antiquated outfit is rafting on an overripe banana. All of Rivero-Cintra’s subjects are engaged in some form of rowing or swimming, repetitive actions that can symbolize the process of meditative self-reflection, but are also methods to physically escape—a personal subject  for the artist, who grew up in Cuba and now resides in Colombia. With this in mind, the fruits and vegetables, first coming into view as surrealist gestures, also take on political value both as the products of the agricultural economy in South America and as the symbols of potential health and prosperity.

Using food as a touchstone, and water as an apt metaphor for the makeup of memory, both reflective and fluid, Rivero-Cintra seems to be encouraging viewers to explore their psyches both as a type of escapism and self-understanding. Detachment from the self is symptomatic of a turbulent past; for Rivero-Cintra, art is used as a method to encourage a therapeutic conversation with memory and history; a way to confront the present.

—K. Sundberg

Memories As Metaphors. Works by Juan Carlos Rivero-Cintra” is on view at Beatriz Esguerra Art, Bogota, Mar. 19 – Apr. 23, 2015.

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