Diango Hernández is a visual artist born in 1970 in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba. He earned a degree in Industrial Design at the Havana Superior Institute of Design (ISDI, 1994). After graduation he began a collaboration experience under the name ‘Ordo Amoris Cabinet’, after the Latin words for ‘order’ and ‘love’ (1994-2003). Hernández currently lives and works in Dusseldorf, Germany. Exhibiting widely Hernández’s works has been included at the 51st Venice Art Biennale (Arsenale, 2005), Sao Paolo Biennial (2006), Biennale of Sydney (2006), Kunsthalle Basel (2006), Munich’s Haus der Kunst (2010), London’s Hayward Gallery (2010) and more recently with asurvey at the MART (2011) in Rovereto, Italy
More info at: Alexander and Bonin, NY / Capitain Petzel, Berlin / Marlborough Contemporary, London
Awards and residencies
2012 Artist in residency, Fondazione Brodbeck, Catania, Italy. / Premio Rotary Club, MIART, Milan, Italy. / 2010 Artist in residence, Blood Mountain Foundation, Budapest, Hungary. / 2008 Rubens-Förderpreis der Stadt Siegen, Germany. / 2007 Premio Icona, Verona, Italy. / 2007 Artist in residence at Frac des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France. / 2005 Artist in residence, Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany. / 2001 Artist in residence, Artpace Foundation, San Antonio, US. 1998 Artist in residence, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, Germany. / 1997 Artist in residence, ‘Apocalypso’, Banff Centre for the Arts, Alberta, Canada
Selected solo exhibitions (2012-2009)
*2012 ‘The stamps that never travelled and the birds that never flew’, Benveniste Contemporary, ARCO, Madrid, Spain. / ‘Folded Tigers’, Philara – Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst, Dusseldorf, Germany. / ‘Drawing the human figure’ (curated by Nuno Faria), Fondazione Brodbeck, Catania, Italy
*2011 ‘Lonely fingers’ (curated by Georg Elben), Marl Skulpturenmuseum, Marl, Germany. / ‘Diango Hernandez. Living rooms, a survey’ (curated by Yilmaz Dziewior), MART, Rovereto, Italy. / ‘Crystal clear’, Nicolas Krupp Contemporary Art, Basel, Switzerland. / ‘If I send you this’, Alexander and Bonin, NY, US. / ‘Line dreamers’, Haus im Süden, Cologne, Germany. / ‘The stamps that never travelled and the birds that never flew’, Benveniste Contemporary, Madrid, Spain
*2010 ‘A kiss, a hat, a stamp’, Blood Mountain Foundation, Budapest, Hungary. / ‘Museums: Selected works 1996 / 2010’, Galerie Michael Wiesehöfer, Cologne, Germany
*2009 ‘Losing you tonight: Flying memories’, Galerie Michael Wiesehöfer, FIAC, Paris, France. / ‘Losing you tonight’ (curated by Eva Schmidt), Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Germany. / ‘Define gravity. Sun State #3’, collaboration with Mouse on Mars, Galerie Michael Wiesehöfer, Cologne, Germany. / ‘The importance of a line’ (curated by Nuno Faria), Porta33, Madeira, Portugal. / ‘Giardino tropicale’, Paolo Maria Deanesi Gallery, Artissima, Turin, Italy. / ‘La historia, mi juguete preferido’, Pepe Cobo y Cia, Madrid, Spain. / ‘Th-ink’, Alexander and Bonin, NY, US. / ‘El manual del tractorista arrepentido’ (curated by Adriano Pedrosa), Alexander and Bonin, NY, Zona Maco, Mexico City, Mexico. / ‘It is also my history’, Pepe Cobo y Cia, ArtCologne, Cologne, Germany. / ‘Building beyond success’, collaboration with Anne Pöhlmann, Clages, Cologne, Germany
Selected group exhibitions (2012-2009)
*2012 ‘Newtopia: The State of Human Rights’ (curated by Katerina Gregos) Mechelen, Belgium. ‘Chaotic trajectories’ (curated by Thomas Rehbein) Temporary Gallery, Cologne, Germany
*2011 ‘Hans hat Glück’, Castle Gandegg, Appiano, Italy. ‘The silver show’, NAK, Aachen, Germany. ‘Entropia’, Philara – Sammlung zeitgenössischer Kunst, Dusseldorf, Germany. ‘DC Bonus’, Schmidt Maczollek / Michael Wiesehöfer / Thomas Zander, Forum für Fotografie, Cologne, Germany. ‘New Space’, Federico Luger, Milan, Italy. ‘Colors for a new home, Signs of love and other paintings’, Alexander and Bonin, NY, US. ‘Fronteras en mutación, en tránsito of Bridges & Borders (fase III)‘, CCEBA, Centro Cultural de España en Buenos Aires, Argentina. ‘Local host‘ (International artists in / from NRW At AZKM), Ausstellungshalle Zeitgenössische Kunst, Münster. ‘Tracks’, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Liechtenstein. ‘Drawings wall’, Paolo Maria Deanesi Gallery, Rovereto, Italy
*2010 ‘Neues Rheinland. Die Postironische Generation’ (curated by Stefanie Kreuzer), Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany. ‘Fiona Banner-Marcus Becker – Diango Hernández’ Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin, Germany. ‘4 on paper’ Alexander and Bonin NY, US. ‘Face to face’ Pepe Cobo y Cia, Madrid, Spain. ‘Touched’ The 10th Liverpool Biennial (curated by Peter Gorschlüter), Tate Liverpool, UK. ‘The new décor’ (curated by Ralph Rudolf), Hayward Gallery, London, UK / Garage CCC, Moscow, Russia. ‘Star city’ (curated by Alex Farquharson), Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK. ‘Who wants to use my window?’ Paolo Maria Deanesi Gallery, Rovereto, Italy. ‘Goldene Zeiten’ (curated by Patrizia Dander and Julienne Lorz), Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany. ‘Modelos para armar: Thinking Latin America from the MUSAC collection, León, Spain. ‘A philosophical enquiry into the origin of our ideas of the fear and terror’ (curated by Helmut Friedel and Giovanni Iovane), Galleria Gentili, Prato, Italy. ‘Languages and experimentations’ MART, Rovereto, Italy. ‘Larger than life stranger than fiction’ (curated by Ulrike Groos), 11th Triennale der Kleinplastik Fellbach bei Stuttgart, Germany
*2009 ‘Ordinary revolutions’ (curated by Stefanie Kreuzer), Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany. ‘Das Gespinst’ (curated by Wilhelm Schurmann) Museum Abteiberg, Mochengladbach, Germany. ‘Performa 09′ (curated by Lara Pan), NY, US. ‘Danielle Kawaaitaal and Diango Hernández’, Monkeys Island, Cologne, Germany. ‘Precarious Form’, Galerie Meyer Kainer (curated by Veit Loers), Vienna, Austria. ‘ev + a 2009, Reading the city’ (curated by Yilmaz Dziewior), Limerick City, Ireland. ‘Cambio de aceite’, Pepe Cobo y Cia, Madrid, Spain
(excerpt) Home means belonging and vice-versa by Patrizia Dander
DANDER: All these things that you gather in your studio from flea markets or eBay, like old accounting books, magazines, records, furniture etc., seem to function as a kind of physical archive. Do these things get you going? Do your works start to exist from the things that surround you? Do you always work on one thing at a time, or is it rather a process of keeping different things in motion?
HERNÁNDEZ: I usually try to work on many different things at the same time. This perhaps comes from the way I read books: it can take me years to finish a book because I start to read a different book, magazine or newspaper every day and I just read a little bit of it. To work simultaneously on many different things allows me to focus on wider issues rather than on a factual result. In the end, every single piece is connected through time and reactions. In this sense it is very important for me to have enough elements around; books, furniture and found paper are extremely necessary when I start my day in the studio. The studio (i.e. what it physically contains) and the inherent studio rhythm define an artist’s ideology. All the progressive forces in an artwork come from the way and the circumstances under which the artwork was made and not from the artwork itself. It is that untold story that carries all the information needed to change maybe the lives of many unhappy workers. In the studio I find most of all the possibility to develop a very personal understanding of what work means, and also a distinct sense of efficiency. To observe and object, to think about it, to move it from one place to the other, to observe it and to think again means efficiency to me. There is a very fine line defining the artist’s studio. Once this line is broken the studio could easily become a small factory, a little school or a boring office.
DANDER: I know that you really protect your studio space as your most personal realm. Why is it so hard for you to share that space – to make a small factory or office out of it – after such an extended experience of sharing everything with Ordo Amoris Cabinet?
HERNÁNDEZ: The studio for me is still a secret place, a place where I practice my solitude and where the exchange of ideas can only exist in-between the ideas and me. We can see ideas as voices without bodies. After three months of being in the studio an artist colleague moved to the studio next door. There is a window in my space from which I can see him and I guess he can see me as well from his. I was very surprised when I saw him spending more time looking at a painting than actually painting it. It is here that observation establishes a dialogue with ideas. Since I have the studio I have had very few studio visits. I try to avoid visitors by all means; my studio is a very chaotic place full of things, dust and cigarettes on the floor. I am not proud of all the mess I have and certainly I don’t want to personally show it to people. I am used to sharing things but the studio defines me, it is my working space, which is even more private than the place I live.
DANDER: But at a certain point the interiority of this dialogue between you and the artworks, the privacy of the site of production needs to be made public – at the moment when you decide to exhibit a work. How do you deal with that?
HERNÁNDEZ: After this whole process I never know if something I have done is finished – which is a great advantage for me. When something carries unfinished qualities primary questions and doubts emerge again in the object, exposing it to a greater fragility. Everything that goes out of my studio is unfinished and it needs to be finished by the stranger that one day in a different space will look at it.
DANDER: Does that also imply that you return working on pieces that you’ve already been showing?
HERNÁNDEZ: I definitely return to many “unfinished” objects and ideas. You know I compulsively make drawings in my sketchbooks; these drawings contain mostly ideas about how to ideally articulate multiple elements. What is interesting is that many of these drawings will never become “real”; they will never occupy a space as a three-dimensional object. But many of them will be the objects of my revisions. Here we go back to the connections between drawings and time(s) that we were talking of before. I just want to remark that what in the beginning wasn’t more than a fragile construction of unstable lines can become through time – something that attracts and challenges me to the point that I want to bring that drawing to “reality”. I keep thinking a sculpture, a drawing or whatever I do in a non-permanent way. That’s why it is so dangerous for me to reinstall a work: I will probably change something, I know it is not finished and it will never be.
DANDER: I find it very interesting that you say the studio defines what I do, and then even connecting this argumentation with the term of an artist’s “ideology”. This is a clearly materialist position. How comes?
HERNÁNDEZ: Really interesting point! Philosophy was an important matter for me; I didn’t miss a single philosophy class ever in any of my years of studies. We started with philosophy in the 9th grade when I was 15, first with classic philosophy and right after that with Marxism-Leninism, which lasted until I finished university. Especially the Capital is one of my favourite books, it is a book full of brilliant ideas that I have read first because I had to and many other times because I love it. Of course the way we work, seeing it as the binomium of space and organisation, defines how we do things and I believe it can also define what we do. We can see that clearly if we consider how the artist’s studio has changed and developed. I wouldn’t isolate any of these changes from the development of modern economy and politics, but definitely the development of the studio itself has contributed extraordinarily to the development of many art strategies that nowadays are the fundaments of what we all do. Listening to Robert Morris last summer at the Museum Abteiberg in Möchengladbach, when he talked about American modern artists, I realised that visual artists were the first that occupied “abandoned” factories and transformed them into “cultural factories”. Since then the scale of working, the artist’s tools and their materials have changed. The artist became more and more a builder that was occupied with questions about space more than with questions about content. As Morris said, referring to some American positions back in the sixties, the “big gestures” grew bigger every day.
DANDER: What you say is true for the early days of Minimalism (and in some cases also for these artists’ later work). But just a very short time after, towards the late sixties, with Conceptual art the concentration on content became articulated in a way it had never been before. That said, this “the bigger the better” attitude was questioned immediately. A studio became the space for concentrating on the crucial questions of how to define the content of the work. Maybe one could say, that around that time the variety of approaches and therefore potential self-definitions of artists grew: e.g. builders, bricoleurs, and bureaucrats. Where do you position yourself in this context?
HERNÁNDEZ: I agree with you, right after these early days of Minimalism the world changed and content took an important role inside many artists’ practices. Nevertheless the artist’s studio or the place where the artist was operating kept playing an extraordinary role in the development of the art ideology and agenda. Just remember how the artists transformed cities and public spaces into their own operational sites, how streets became studios and in many cases everyday life was transformed into a very efficient brush. I have tried by all means to keep my practice inside the limits of my capacity, which means to keep working to a personal and individual scale. By now, I could perfectly need an assistant or a studio manager – which nowadays is a very fancy title for artists with certain success. I rather prefer to keep thinking, producing and delivering my ideas without delegating. I know it becomes harder every day for me to keep track with everything I am involved in. Nevertheless the results are always more rewarding when I follow my work in a personal way. In this sense my practice, production processes and my studio are guided and controlled by certain accidents, surprises and curiosity. Since I have started to develop my own independent work I have abandoned all possible strategies. My work is dominated by a continuous flow of events that I push by myself. I see myself as an individual that is performing his work inside a big ongoing network of people and ideas; but I still would like to see myself as a poet who doesn’t need anything more than a pen, a piece of paper and a couple of good words to work with.
DANDER: One last question: in the beginning you said that your journey leaving Cuba lasted for almost six years, that would be until last year. Does this mean that you’ve finally started to feel at home abroad?
HERNÁNDEZ: All these years in Europe have been intense for me, years charged with strong emotions of all kinds. I have learned innumerable things that I could have never learned in and from Havana. I am full of gratitude for all the friends and colleagues who helped me through the years to understand this part of the world better and faster, to understand all of the contradictions that exist here. I often talk about memory as a large closet, which has many drawers that permanently change their order and size. There is a moment when this closet disappears and memories dissolve into every moment, every day. I have reached that point now; I have completed my “journey” and I have arrived, but I honestly don’t know where I’ve arrived to.
Interview published in ‘H’ (Home). A guided visit through Diango Hernández’s studio and a closer view to his background and way of working. Produced by dh Artworks and published by Alexander and Bonin Publishing, Inc. 2011.