Cabral’s chairs

Posted in Sex in Caribbean Art by Adele Todd on August 20, 2007

Francesco Cabral

I remember when I first saw Francesco Cabral’s chairs. His were not the first that I had seen, they were not even the most unique. What they were, more importantly, was the most provoking. I recall wanting a chair from a British artist that was made of brushed steel and looked like a thick, rough sketch of a chair. I spent many weeks as a teenager at that time trying to consider how I was going to ship it home. So, when I found myself at our National Museum and gazed upon Mr. Gabral’s work, I thought that I was prepared. One chair in particular was an emotional juggernaut. He created what looked like a latrine with a washboard backing and to this he stuck very impressive, clear pictures of a well endowed black man with an erect penis, masturbating.

Now I thought that I was no prude, see (Dry post) but this really hit me for six as the cricket term goes! I looked around and I felt a bit shy. I think that all I could say was, “Whoo!” Was it because I had never seen such an image before? Not really. It was because I had never seen such an image so public before, so devoid of privacy and personal discovery. This was out in the open as though his penis was a necktie.

The seat of the chair was an old rum drum turned over. The whole presentation reeked of the forbidden slavery, blackness, black man sexuality. But because this was a modern black man in jeans, pulled down, it also said, decadent, homosexual, homosexual because it seemed to be looking upon the male gaze. Everything about the piece was masculine.
What set this work apart also was that it was sculpture, it was sexual, it had a pulse, a jolt of something that seemed un-sayable about it. It was masculine, but not necessarily a comfortable masculinity. The piece still carries currency today.

Ever so often I ask about Mr. Cabral. You hear that he is in Miami. Some say working in a gas station. I don’t know if any of that is true, but what I do know is that Mr. Cabral managed to do something very rare in Art in Trinidad and Tobago, he brought a raw sexuality to his work.


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