Blurring the lines between traditional art depictions and unconventional media, Cuban artist Yoan Capote opens the conversation about power dynamics and the human psyche while empowering United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Decent Work and Economic Growth and Reduced Inequalities.

Capote was born in Cuba and graduated from the National School of Art in 1995 and from the Higher Institute of Art in Havana in 2001.

The multiplicity of his Cuban background inspires his work as it tackles migration, power play, politics and the environment. However, most of his pieces transcend the shared diasporas as they speak to a greater audience through the portrayal of metaphysical thematic experiences.

Old Speech by Yoan Capote. Image courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery.‌‌

In his 2010 exhibition called Old Speech, Capote featured two rusty speakers, one with a chain in it and one antiquated microphone that was submerged on the bottom of the ocean for six months. The submersion caused the audio equipment's deterioration, giving it its worn-out look.

This installation reflects blasting the same flawed ideas and opinions throughout time or repeating old promises without aiming to fulfill any of them. Humanity is chained to the past, be it old routines or outdated policies.

The problem with being chained at sea is that anything that is attached to it will eventually sink. Slowly, it will be harder to grasp for air - suffocating even. It is only when humans learn how to cut the anchor that is dragging them down, that they will be able to rise to the surface.
Isla (La pared de las palabras) by Yoan Capote. Image courtesy of Yoan Capote’s website. ‌‌

Throughout the years, Capote released a series of paintings of the ocean. In an interview, he revealed his affinity with the waves and the meaning that the ocean personifies in his work.

“So the collective experience of working together, obsessively focused on the ocean, has a powerful symbolic force in a place where that sense of isolation—of feeling fenced in by a steel barrier, of being up against a wall—is everywhere. These are intense shared emotional states that all empty into the sea,” Capote answered.

Isla by Yoan Capote. Image courtesy of AnOther Magazine.‌‌

Looking closely at his work, a clustered fish hook that mimics the waves becomes noticeable. This peculiar element adds dimensions to the overall tonality of the work.

Capote wrote, “I wanted to use thousands of fishhooks to create a surface that would be almost tangible to the viewer upon their approach; this would become the tactile experience of standing in front of a metal fence. The fishhook itself is an ancient tool that has kept its design for centuries and which is also symbolic of seduction and entrapment.”

Moreover, the symbolism behind the utilization of fish hooks surmounts as he continues, “For Cubans the seascape imposes a political and ideological limit that has been dividing families, ideas and feelings for several generations; it is a mental wall between the present and the future that affects the collective conscience like a permanent fascination."

Naturaleza Urbana by Yoan Capote. Image courtesy of Art Basel.‌‌

Naturaleza Urbana is an installation that features a hand-cuff on a grown tree and a sapling. This portrays the power struggle and suffocation between the two.

As the sapling grows, the handcuff will constrict its development, forcing it to mold itself within the barriers. This installment taps into the human psyche as it characterizes the pigeonholing of certain individuals. It delineates humanity’s obsession with maintaining conformity and punishing deviance.

One way or another, Capote is able to tell a story by mixing nature and man-made materials to describe humanity’s inhibitions and behaviour.

For more information about his work, you can visit Yoan Capote’s website.

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