My last refrain: Oh my body, make of me a man who always questions.
Diago’s aesthetic inquiry constantly swings between those false dualisms that the modern episteme tried to institute between “high-low” cultures, “abstraction-figuration”, “tradition-modernity”. For this artist, building the image becomes a tool that questions any type of canon seeking to impose itself on the free will of his exploration in the plural imaginaries that feed into his art. Thus, the very creation of his canvas medium plays with the illusory appearance of fragment using small squares of fabric that are joined into colour planes to set up the image. The smallest unit of the digital image articulating the pixel is cut here in a scrap or patch, reminiscent of those patchwork quilts sewn by our grandmothers in the evenings, when homes were a place of calm after the domestic maelstrom of the day. Thus, high and low technologies are transformed into a simulation game in Roberto Diago’s work, such as when he builds his photographic light boxes from old, recycled wood pallets.
A symbolic effigy embodies that witness of time in Diago’s work, that character that could even be assumed sometimes as a sort of self-representation of the artist and with whom the artist identifies, as he has stated in various interviews. It is that schematic black silhouette, where the almond-shaped eyes like cowries or snail shells are related to Eleguá (the Orisha that opens the way in the belief system known as Regla de Osha-Ifá). This figure observes us from the depth of these cavities bored into the face like eye sockets; but it does not speak. it has historically been deprived of a voice that was sequestered along with the richness of its original cultures. Black voices that were marginalised, excluded, silenced, and expelled from the order of discourse. For the first time in this exhibition, Diago brings that recognisable sign of his canvases to a three-dimensional sculptural concept and also makes a foray into the use of bronze as a material. Once again his use of artistic material forces us to think of another sequestration, that of the Benin Bronzes, which are still exhibited in Western museums as a testimony to colonialist usurpation.