Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa is known for his explorations of social and political issues in the context of urban architecture and the built environment. Inspired by his native Havana, Garaicoa adopts the city as a laboratory and metaphor for human existence, intervening on its landscape to offer searing and insightful commentary on issues such as architecture’s ability to alter the course of history, the failure of modernism as a catalyst for social change, human rights, and the frustration and decay of 20th century utopias. Working across artistic media, Garaicoa takes a multidisciplinary approach that defies categorization. In several projects, his ideas evolve over series of black and white photographs altered and amended in various ways. “Untitled (Sentences)” [Sin título (frases)], 2009, documents the artist’s perambulations through Havana’s formerly bustling downtown commercial center. Departing from the fanciful names emblazoned on now deteriorated or abandoned storefronts, he composes poetic responses-part lamentation, part political critique-in pins and needles directly on the photographs.
In other works, Garaicoa engages architecture and the built environment through sculpture and installation. “The Crown Jewels” (Las joyas de la corona), 2009, consists of eight cast silver models of international sites of military authority, surveillance and repression, including Cuba’s Villa Marista, the East German Stasi, Guantánamo Naval Base, the Pentagon, and the KGB. Intricate and intimately sized, they are displayed separately in glass vitrines. “Bend City, 2009,” one of the artist’s exquisite cut paper installations, depicts an entire city composed of imaginary forms.
Driven by a belief in the artist’s moral obligation towards society, Garaicoa creates new artistic vocabularies in order to discuss social and political issues that resonate in both local and global contexts.
Carlos Garaicoa (b. 1967, Havana, Cuba) lives and works in Madrid, Spain, and Havana, where he studied thermodynamics at the Instituto Hermanos Gómez and visual art at the Instituto Superior de Arte. Since 1991, Garaicoa has exhibited extensively at international venues including the 53rd Venice Biennale and Documenta 11. His works belong to public and private collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern (London), Museum of Modern Art (New York), and El Museo Nacional de Arte Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid).
The exhibition Carlos Garaicoa: La enmienda que hay en mí (Making Amends) first opened in March 2009 at the National Museum of Fine Arts during the 10th Havana Biennial in Havana, Cuba, and was curated by Corina Matamoros, Curator of Contemporary Cuban Art at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana. For its U.S. debut at USFCAM, the exhibition is co-curated by Matamoros and Noel Smith, Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Art, USF Institute for Research in Art.
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Image: Carlos Garaicoa, Bend City (Red), 2008. Cardboard, wood, plexiglas.