Diango Hernandez has in the past noted, both slyly and acutely, his own "tropical sensitivities." Certainly they could be discerned in the Dusscldorf-bascd Cuban artist's quietly exhilarating exhibition in Basel, though not in the conventional or cliched forms that evocations of the tropics so often take; there were no ported palms or brightly-patterned tiles. Instead, the elegant if strangely alien modernism (Europe by way of the Caribbean and back again) emanating from the objects, paintings, and assemblages on view seemed keyed to a peculiar humidity. That is to say, if one were to gauge the atmosphere of these works, it would be both stifling and sexy, and definitely wet.
But water, in all its forms--liquid flood, steamlike evaporation, crystal-like ice--was the point of Hernandez's show. See the suite of nine small framed works on paper, Cristates, 1936 (all works 2011 K which opened the exhibition in one long, even row. The elegantly modern black-and-white prints of heavy and decorous Yilleroy & Boch crystal goblets and glasses--arranged on tabletops like classically commercial rejoinders to Giorgio Moralities more abstracted assemblages of vases--were taken from a 1936 German catalogue. Besides the framing, I Icrnandcz's touch could be located in the delicate pools of translucent vvatercolor that filled many of the glasses with lemon yellow, sky blue, and rusty orange. Farther down the wall hung a set of larger, watercolor-on-linen paintings,
from a series titled "Humid Memories," 2011-, the same bright and blurry colors illumining their brown-linen grounds. Here the color assumed the form of cloudlike stains, hovering and blossoming from the canvases' centers. It was as if paintings by Paul Klee and Marc Chagall had been distilled of both figure and form until just color--ever so subtle, without gesture--remained, gorgeously spectral yet oddly specific.
This channeling of …