critical texts


ARES: Psycho-humor. Prologue of the book Gente de Meio tom
Caridad Blanco
ARES: Psycho-humor.
Prologue of the book Gente de Meio tom

By: Caridad Blanco. Havana City, November 1995

In 1994, ten years after the publication of his first humor drawing, Arístides Hernández Guerrero (Ares) was nominated by the American specialized magazine Witty World to appear among the world’s best caricaturists. Nowadays, he is the most internationally awarded Cuban cartoonist. Among others, he was awarded the Prize to the best caricature in the 12th International Biennale of Humor and Satire in Art, in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, thus arising the number of these international acknowledgments to twenty-eight.

Behind were left the timid drawings appeared in the Opina magazine and later in other Cuban publications, especially in Dedeté, which made possible the fast maturity of the young artist’s work. He was even awarded his first international prize for his graphic work in Yugoslavia in 1985. At that time, his works already showed a somehow hard line; his characters are drawn with well-defined, though not definitive strokes.

It was in 1989 —the same year in which he had his first important exhibition and the publication of his first book, called “Entrar por el Aro”—, that he had remarkable results in his drawings. In no time he set a style of his own in which the essential aspects that characterized and still characterize his work are perfectly visible. Maybe up to this point, at first glance, one might find some similarity to Carlucho’s work or to certain European trends —identified mainly as German by some people. Meanwhile, his characters expressed how exclusive his graphic ability was, finally establishing him in the late eighties as the new master of his stroke and of his wonderful talent.

There was a spirit of goodness (still preserved), of almost tenderness, in his drawings of that time, in the way he dealt with his subjects. A humor tinged with a certain dose of “naivety”. It is precisely in this sense where his two professions —psychiatrist and humorist— converge more coherently: starting from the perception of a smile offered as a cure, to the artistic tracing of humanist nature.

Although contingencies exist, they do not hinder optimism or deny poetry. Together with Ares humor production there is his constant intellectual preparation —his enrichment. He does not indulges himself in banality while, at the same time, escapes from inscrutability. He is interested, according to his own words, in making intelligent, but also understandable humor.

Hi work remains within a range that goes from absurd to black humor, including the lovely, ingenious white and existential worries regarding ethics and philosophy, sometimes. In this last sense, there is an obvious, progressive growing towards an aspect of his artistic work less committed to humor.

Curved lines are predominant in his drawings (a certain roundness), but their supremacy —although slowly—, tends to disappear. By stressing the sinuosity (melting) as an expressive effect that distorts the formal purity reached before. Finally, his graphic expression, yet, the last word and reveals in these details a part of his interior dialectics.

In his work as a whole, he shows notable peculiarities like: confidence, precision and cleanliness. They all merge and also define a style with a gift for elegance. Regarding the characters, Ares has even standardized some facial expression of great simplicity, transforming, now, more elaborated and suggestively grotesque expressions by giving a less indulgent appearance to the figures, reflecting a half stunned or alienated face in a body with signs of lacerations. A body that gets rid of perfection itself, announcing a poetry that goes towards a more audacious expressionism.

The artist likes working on lonely bodies or pairs. He likes focusing all attention on them, highlighting this priority of the close-ups apparently to enlarge the image and its prominence for a true interest, sometimes symbolically. This sort of graphic punch can be perceived when you stand in front of his drawings and it is a very well assimilated heritage from the poster world. When it is required to express an idea, he stops to elaborate the situation, the scenery, and the necessary details: angles, perspectives and framings characteristics from the cinematographic language. His characters are mainly humans, sometimes combined with animals and objects (all of them obese). Occasionally, these two get a relevant role. Especially remarkable is the area devoted to sports: weightlifters, fencers, karateists, runners, boxers. At the same time, the circus actors —clowns, magicians, tamers and jugglers— are recreated. To them are added cooks, convicts, police officers, astronauts, soldiers, fathers, kings, all used basically in an area related with absurdity or a poetic white humor.

Regarding black humor, there are —naturally— the executioners, who are surpassed by the splendor of the very ideas developed starting from them: witches, angels and devils. The representation of bureaucrats and certain characters, to which the artist ascribes a symbolical meaning, provokes a space chosen for him to express existential reflexions and point out human attitudes typical of the moment in which they occur. Taking life as their general subject, all these works aim to the fields of power, love, justice or death, among others.

His book Cuba com Humor (1993), published in Brazil, includes a comprehensive group of works that illustrate a good deal of the above mentioned and show also the high artistic quality achieved by the artist, while exhibits at the same time a greater sharpness within his humor and his high conceptual solidness. It is precisely in it where it is easier to notice the change that is taking place in Ares’ graphic work, almost constantly, “resurrecting” his style and accentuating the expressiveness of his characters, to which he has added this time snowmen and scarecrows.

In Gente de Meio tom you will see, together with the usual subtle irony, sixty-five of his most recent works. In them, the expressionist direction in his creation is visible. In this book, he gets God back as a character and recreates others scarcely used up to now, like women, children and old people. He reinforces the presence of cops and convicts, as well as military men, at the same time as he emphasizes the formal requirements in the representation of pairs and groups of people. Standing out from the rest, due to its intensity, there is a part we could call “of psychological portrait”. In it, have been rather unconventionally represented human stances and attitudes, and social types. This book reveals us a mature artist and the esthetic value it expresses, places it among the best contemporary book of humor drawings. Despite his autodidactic education, Ares has obtained important acknowledgements, like the five prices he was awarded during the national humor exhibition, held in Havana in November of this year (1995). This magnificent awarding of prizes is the result of this work, his persistence and his talent to walk the paths of art, either those of humor —where he displays all his talent— or those of comic books, illustrations for children or the cartoons. All the silence of his drawings —like in the first Chaplin’s comedies— is nothing but that voice we know so well, and that comes out when we have a special communication with someone.

Words are unnecessary; and are unnecessary in this particular case because image surpasses itself in universality. That is why it does not matter whether the publishing place is Japan, North-America or Brazil —or even the Moon—, because he knows how to get there, like his characters, fully dressed.

Published in Salvador de Bahía, Brazil, 1995