Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chago Armada's Sa-Lo-Mon

Considering that I have fluid criteria to "define" comics (I don't do that, really), it's obvious that I should have included Saul Steinberg in my first post (the mother of all that's following, to quote, you know who). There's sequenciality in some of his cartoons, if sequenciality is important to define the art form... Anyway, if Steinberg wasn't there, a great follower was: Chago Armada.

Santiago "Chago" Armada was born in Palma Soriano, Cuba, and was one of Fidel Castro's "guerrilleros" in the Sierra Maestra. It was there that he drew his first character: Julito 26, for El cubano libre. In 1961 he created "Sa-Lo-Mon" for Revolución newspaper. In 1963 he published his book El humor otro (another kind of humor) in which a few of his "Sa-Lo-Mon" strips and pages were republished. Considered too hermetical and, consequentially, too bourgeois, "Sa-Lo-Mon" was discontinued in 1963. The same thing happened to Rafael Fornés' "Don Sabino." Oy!...
There are two different phases in the "Sa-Lo-Mon" series: the poetical comic strip and the philosophical page. "Sa-Lo-Mon is a very simple caricature at first (he's the innocent naked human) to become a more sophisticated fool with a mask. The three syllables dividing the name Salomon are a conceptual, visual, phonetical mirror to the language of comics. With this series Chago Armada explored all things human: innocence, curiosity, scatology, wonderment, boredom, sexuality, etc... After finishing its life in comics, Sa-Lo-Mon fuelled Chago Armada's paintings (he really did abstract comics as early as the sixties). It's maddening that tons of ink and paper are wasted every day in order to publish mediocrities while this masterpiece remains completely unknown. Ry Cooder and Wim Wenders, where are you when you're needed?...

: an anti children's comics cartoon by another Cuban Steinberg influenced cartoonist: René de la Nuez (El caballo de Troya, 1984).

PS: A gallery of Cuban art showing some of Chago's paintings:

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