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Arturo Cuenca

On one level, Arturo Cuenca resembles a conventional photographer walking the street of a city, taking photographs of incidents that strike his eye. He has developed a keen sensibility to the cold beauties and ragged edges of the urban environment; first in Havana and more recently in New York City. But Cuenca is not following in the steps of Cartier-Bresson or Robert Frank. The east 40s and 50s of Manhattan (or wherever else he is taking pictures) are not the ultimate subject of his work, which is a visual investigation not of social conditions but their underlying philosophical structures.

In his series titled Homeless: Subjective and Objective Images, Cuenca has created a brilliant and moving discourse on the politics of seeing, the relationship of viewer (and artist) to their subject. By taking the unprecedented step of incorporating the subject's point-of-view into the work, he upsets the traditional hierarchy of viewer and viewed. If this were not enough, Cuenca's easy migration among different mediums (photography, painting, photographic installations) signals his distance from conventional photography. Each of Cuenca's complex works, where one image dissolves into several, reminds us that experience is multi-layered, overdetermined, opaque. He employs an arraw of technical devices, from camera focus to computer manipulation to inventive light-boxes, to establish a new ethics-esthetic of the image.

Cuenca uses the critical awareness of conceptual art to break down simplistic versions of the world. But he also goes beyond the didactic limitation of much conceptual art by offering the viewer a rich visual experience. His compressed narratives elegantly reinvent the history of painting, photography, and cinema; Cuenca has rejected nothing except the easy solution.

Raphael Rubinstein

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