Schwabsky, Barry, Artforum International
In the three sculptures on view in his first New York solo show, the young Cuban artist Kcho used, or cited, the boat as both a basic structure and an overarching metaphor. The two larger and more recent pieces, La Columna Infinita I (Endless column) and La Columna Infinita II, both 1996, were formed of slender slats of blond wood, held together with numerous C-clamps, and creating skeletal images of piled-up boats. Monuments to their own antimonumentality, these works certainly reminded at least those viewers who knew that Kcho resides in Cuba less of their ostensible Brancusian model than of other, more topical images of flight and failure. As Mel Bochner pointed out to me, their mode of making (and, I would add, their fluid approach to metaphor) owes a good deal to some of the igloos of Mario Merz, who has also used the C-clamp to great sculptural effect. But for all their evident ambition, in breadth of art-historical reference as well as in scale, there was something sweetly tenuous and open about these ghostly heaps of vessels. Yet something - a hint of deeper artistic guile within Kcho's apparent ingenuousness - made one want to question their seeming candor. Some of the curves here could hardly have been formed by the clamps alone, and one wondered whether they were even sufficient to maintain the structure. Yet I looked in vain for any telltale traces of glue.
An earlier work, Obras Escogidas (Selected works), 1994, also played on the boat form, but in a sculpturally simpler way. In this piece there was a more definite breach between appearance and structure, since at first the boat, here a single form, seemed to be made of open books tied together. (Two wall drawings suggested the same thing could have been accomplished with baseballs or hotdogs.) Non-Cubans can wonder to what extent Kcho's titles form a typical cross-section of the available reading matter in Castro's Cuba: certainly there were works that represented nationalistic interests (volumes on Cuban history and geography) as well as Marxist philosophy (anyone for the works of Kim Il Sung? …