Many are the artists who travel the world to exhibit their work, but only a few obtain international recognition. The work of Nelson Cabán has been celebrated internationally, but most importantly, it has received the seal of approval from none other than U.S. President Barack Obama.
Cabán discloses to “Art Talk” how he managed to reach out to the President. He explains that back in 2008, while living in New York City during Obama’s first election campaign, he decided to create an artwork that embodied the ideals of change and hope this period represented in the American history. Then, he posted the image on his social media channels: Myspace and Facebook. Subsequently, a colleague of Obama’s campaign saw the work and it was brought to the attention of the then Senator of Illinois. Shortly after, he received a call one morning at 4 a.m. and was asked to be in Philadelphia by 8 a.m. At this point Obama was presented with the painting. This occurred exactly a week before Election Day 2008.
Cabán is a contemporary artist from Spanish Harlem. He grew up during the early 80s in NYC and has lived in Tokyo, Madrid, and Hong Kong over the years. He is currently based in Hong Kong and New York City. His travels have allowed him to observe and experience the sociocultural and political realities of place and history at a distance.
Social issues and political narratives are the themes of his work. He questions modern sociopolitical issues, agency and consciousness, which are then explored on his canvases. He asserts his work is about getting people to rethink the injustices in the world, but more importantly, to empower people to believe in themselves and that they can do something powerful with their lives. He hopes to provoke and create dialogue with the viewer. Often Cabán adds symbols and cryptic messages within the work that are intended to lead them to question further and to seek out more information independently.
What is Art for Cabán? “Art is the place in our society to explore questions, try out new ideas, and take part in the age-old conversation about fundamental human concerns such as beauty, freedom, justice, truth and spirit.”
Consistently, his creative process has revealed the importance and potential impact on the lives of individuals that may serve as a vessel to aid the educational process, provoke dialogue, effect change, and spur growth. Kudos to Cabán!