Alex Symington
Alex Symington

by Alex Symington

We in Key West must surely wake up every day and pinch ourselves in disbelief at our good fortune to live, work and play in such a beautiful, warm and inviting community. (If you don’t, look again) There are many reasons Key West is a paradise, besides the weather and water. For a little dry spot in the ocean at the end of the road we are blessed with a plethora of artistic, literary and cultural outlets, but today I want to focus on The Studios of Key West.

TSKW’s support and promotion of local visual artists and writers has become invaluable to the creative vitality of Key West. TSKW not only supports local talent, but, to our benefit, “imports” talent from elsewhere in the US and beyond our borders. TSKW’s Artist in Residence program hosts three different artists from outside our community every month and we locals get to mix it up with them and positively alter our consciousness a bit without even having to leave our island city!

Expanding on that, TSKW has recently moved from the old Armory building on White Street to their new digs on the corner of Eaton and Simonton. Congratulations! The upper two floors are not finished being remodeled yet, but will house an auditorium/stage, artist studios and offices. As of now the first floor is being used for office and gallery space. The premier show, that opened February 5 and will be up until February 26, is by a trio of young Cuban artists that have taken the name “Stainless” for their collaborative work.

It is synchronistic and fitting that these three young men, 23 to 26 years of age, are coming to us from Cuba now, a country perceived by many US citizens as ultra repressive only to be visually and viscerally challenged to take another look at those preconceptions and prejudices. Fitting also because relations between the US and Cuba are finally and mercifully relaxing after a fifty year fruitless battle of wills, so Key West may once again enjoy it’s traditional and historic cultural cross pollination with Cuba.

Stainless’ show at TSKW, “Una Mente Caotica/One Chaotic Mind” is full of wet color and sexual imagery that is meant to shake up our complacency and tired old perception-by-rote, which is an important component of great art. As TSKW’s Executive Director, Jed Dodds says in his rightly enthusiastic review of Stainless, “They are riding a wave of white hot interest in Cuban art, which is bound to grow as it opens up.” Their work is serious/playful and lampoons both communism and capitalism with equal disdain and questions sexual behavior and taboos that teach us something about ourselves in the process.

If one didn’t know these guys were so young, one would think they were seasoned veterans of an age, yet they ARE young which gives the sophisticated, well crafted work they produce a kind of energy that is exclusively in youth’s domain. In their Q and A session they were asked why the name, “Stainless” and why an English word and not Spanish? They responded that they are interested in a global audience and English has become the international language. The choice of the word, Stainless, is again, an internationally recognized word and to these artists connotes a cleanliness and purity and an ability to remain unstained; true autonomy and creative freedom, if you will.

These guys are extremely bright, humorous and physically attractive and I can’t help but see this trio as a sort of rock band; a rock band that makes art instead of music. The three met at Havana’s San Alejandro Academy of Fine Art and have been producing collaborative work as Stainless since 2010. I hesitate to identify the three fearing it might detract from their Stainless mystique, however they are, Alejandro Pineiro Bello, Jose Gabriel Capaz and Roberto Fabelo Hung.  I urge you to visit the new TSKW and treat yourself to this astounding literal eye candy of a show. Viva Stainless! VivaTSKW!

Alex Symington

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