Art Exhibition—Roberto Diago’s “La historia recordada”


[Many thanks to Teo Freytes for sharing this item.] Adam Parker reports on a new exhibition of Roberto Diago’s work, “La historia recordada” [The Remembered History]. The exhibition will open on January 19 and will be on view through March 3, 2018, at the College of Charleston, in Charleston, South Carolina. As Parker explains, the exhibition runs concurrently with the college’s campus-wide project called “Cuba en el horizonte” [Cuba on the Horizon], which includes art shows, movie screenings, lectures, courses, new publications, and performances.

[. . .] Juan Roberto Diago Durruthy, who usually goes by Roberto Diago, or simply Diago, makes paintings, sculptures, installations, mixed-media pieces and more. His work has been featured at two Venice art biennials, and he is represented in New York City by Magnan Metz Gallery. And now Charleston-area residents and visitors will have a chance to see Diago’s work, which will be exhibited Jan. 19 through March 3. [. . .]

Diago, 46, has been on the art world’s radar for years, and his work is much collected. But early on he struggled, along with many other Cuban artists. Traditional materials such as canvas and oil paint were hard to come by. He developed the habit of using found objects — pieces of metal and wood, for example — to construct works that examined the legacy of slavery, Afro-Cuban identity, syncretic religious traditions, the effects of poverty and more.

Diago’s art caught the fancy of Tom Bradford and Susan Bass, a Charleston couple who traveled to Cuba in April 2015. Bass sits on the board of the Halsey and quickly brought Diago to the attention of Halsey director and chief curator Mark Sloan. She said she was especially taken by Diago’s provocative work, which was displayed throughout his house and in the yard. “The art he had hanging in his house really spoke to all the slavery issues that he was trying to portray,” Bass said. Some of the abstract images were reminiscent of wounds and scars. “I felt it really spoke to Charleston; I just thought that there was such a great connection.”

[. . .]  A year ago, Sloan invited Diago for a site visit. His trip to Charleston was productive and inspiring for the artist, Sloan said. He visited the Old Slavery Mart Museum, a couple of the local historic plantations and other sites relevant to African-American history. He took particular interest in the preserved fingerprints of the black laborers who manufactured bricks. The idea that a remnant of the physical presence of slaves could survive in perpetuity, embedded in the bricks of the city, intrigued his artistic mind, Sloan said. Diago’s work seems to function on two levels, conveying meaning both through chosen materials and through the issues expressed, work that is discreet yet powerful, and that confronts difficult topics.

Alberto Magnan of the Magnan Metz Gallery said much of the imagery in Diago’s work derives from the mixing of West African and Catholic traditions. Cuba’s black population has its origins in the transatlantic slave trade. Cuba was, and still is, a big sugar producer, and its plantation owners relied on slave labor. [. . .]

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