«Todos tenemos nuestra sombra»



1st Floor Gallery
October 18 – November 24 de 2018




Gonzalo Fuenmayor’s work reflects the dual cultural influence that has inexorably marked his artistic practice: Hispanic and North American. His childhood and youth was spent in one of the cities that best embodies the essence of the Caribbean (Barranquilla), and his professional career developed in the United States, where he lives and works today. The entirety of Fuenmayor’s work questions the notions of Caribbean identity as a brand and the stereotypes that have arisen as a result of this concept through images which, to the extent they have been repeated by advertising, have become local symbols such as bananas, toucans, the pineapple and the palm tree.



Fuenmayor’s plastic work is based on this iconography. The artist seeks to combine a narrative line where the decorative and the tragic come together in a discourse that borrows resources from literature, film and advertising. The advertising slogans and the names of North American film producers are parodied in his drawings «Colombia Pictures», «God Bless Latin America», «GringoLand», and others, ironically provoking an inverse reading of their meaning.



Barranquilla has always been a fertile ground for arts and literature and the cradle of social and political movements of the left, including the Grupo de Barranquilla, a gathering of famous intellectuals, writers and painters, among them two members of the artist’s family: José Felix Fuenmayor and Alfonso Fuenmayor; as well as the painters Alejandro Obregón, Bernardo Restrepo Maya and the writers Álvaro Cepeda and Gabriel García Márquez, among others. His work, influenced by these sources, involves a reflection on the identity and socio-political conditions of developing countries such as Colombia, which have been exposed to the overexploitation of their agricultural resources to supply the global market of consumer products. Banana has symbolized, like no other fruit, the paradox of abundance and poverty, being both food for the population and the cause of the exploitation of the peasantry in the plantations; or, in other words, the «tragedy of the banana.”



It is no coincidence that the artist has sought his medium of expression in the classical technique of charcoal and uses it just like the great European masters of the baroque through chiaroscuro, by seeking light from the shadow. From dark backgrounds, intensely worked with charcoal, the artist is able to obtain those points of light that draw and illuminate the motifs of his works, those immense lamps formed by bunches of bananas, which emerge from «erasures» made tortillons and erasers. The artist thus eliminates the use of color commonly associated with the tropics and adopts black and white as a way to define their hybrid identity.



The chandelier is another of the iconic elements of his work, and refers to the decline of that «Century of Lights» that was the eighteenth century, which traveled to the American colonies from Europe. The chandelier plays that double role of providing light in a literal and metaphorical sense, to bring the truth hidden by the shadows to the light of reason, just as Goya did. On the other hand, it is the symbol of European luxury and opulence, which was possible, to a certain extent, thanks to the natural resources discovered in America.

Gonzalo Fuenmayor’s discourse is thus created from irony and parody; paradoxically, banana-producing countries do not enjoy the wealth they produce, which is rather directly received by the countries that exploit the plantations with their technology. This opulence gives rise to a wealth that produces seemingly useless objects that become symbols of status. The artist fuses both objects in images that he himself defines as «visual grafts» where the contrast between form and its signifier acquires new meaning and encourages the audience to think.