Cuban-American artist Cesar Santos modernizes academic art styles and techniques through witty compositions that juxtapose elements directly borrowed from canonical art pieces with his own, contemporary imagery. His work raises questions about the ways meaning changes over time. Through bizarre fusions, including a memorable rendition of Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe with a hint of McDonald’s burgers and fries, Santos aspires to bring clashing worlds into a disparate communion. “In a suggestive and theatrical manner,” he says, “I seek to raise questions, to entice one to probe the imagery that I present, and attempt to decipher its meaning.” By doing so, he encourages the viewers to compare different aesthetics and, in turn, cultural periods in history.
Santos’s technique also plays a big part in what he tries to achieve with the aesthetics and concepts of his art. By working primarily with oils on linen (timeless materials that are malleable, translucent, durable and organic), Santos is able to achieve what he calls a “neo-academic” technique, one that borrows from the canonical past, but is ultimately used for contemporary practices. Through this technique, Santos is able to apply physical texture through thick paint, which is then juxtaposed against smooth translucent areas. This process is a small but meaningful detail that gives the illusion of timelessness yet one of fleeting time — a prime characteristic of today’s revolving door of fashions and relevant imagery.