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Published March 3, 2020

Yoan Capote

Yoan Capote (born in 1977), Abstinencia (Libertad) [Abstinence (Freedom)], 2014, Bronze casts, framed engraving and drypoint, 5/5, Installation of 8 casts of hands: 122 cm (approx. width), Framed print: 79 x 55 cm (approx.). MMFA, purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest. © Yoan Capote. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Abstinencia (Libertad) by Yoan Capote

With Abstinencia (Libertad) the Museum has acquired an important work by Yoan Capote, one of Cuba’s most innovative and influential artists. Capote’s work has been shown extensively at prestigious institutions and exhibitions around the world.

Capote’s is a wide-ranging practice that involves sculpture, painting, installation, photography and video to create analogies between the visual poetry of inanimate objects and the intangible world of ideas.1 Merging incongruous items, such as human organs and mundane objects, Capote’s work engages in broad philosophical questions about power, politics and the nature of humanity, while remaining deeply rooted in actual human experience.2 Speaking in an interview in 2010, Capote explained: “The common thread in all my work is that it is weighted in the condition of the human psyche.”3

Abstinencia (Libertad) constitutes a poetic meditation on ideas of freedom and migration at the heart of Capote’s broader practice. Bronze casts of anonymous hands forming different letters in sign language are sequenced to spell the word “Libertad” (Liberty). The word is decodable with the help of the accompanying print of the sign-language alphabet. Together, the sculptures and the print create an allusion to the difficulty common people face in making their voices heard on important social issues.

Abstinencia (Libertad) engages issues of Cuban identity but also speaks powerfully to international crises of migration and civil liberties that are of critical importance to our current historical moment. Produced in five copies and two artist’s proofs, it is the first work by Capote to enter a public collection in Canada.


2 Ibid.
3 Scott Indrisek, “The ‘Mental States’ of America: A Q&A with Yoan Capote,” Artinfo, 22 October, 2010. Interview.

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