Carlos Alonzo at Miami’s LnS Gallery

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LnS Gallery Carlos Alfonzo: “Witnessing Perpetuity” LnS Gallery 2610 SW 28 Lane, Miami; Through April 18.

The artistic life of the influential Cuban painter Carlos Alfonzo makes such a fascinating, if tragic arc, encompassing the struggles of creativity under the thumb of authoritarianism, migration and integration, and the looming certainty of death at an early age. The gallery is devoting its space to 50 of his works spanning the years of 1976-1990, where one can see how Alfonzo’s style evolved as he mixed in bits of Cubism and Surrealism to his expressionist abstractions, then added Caribbean touches including Afro-Cuban deities and symbolism.

Just as the 30-year-old was discovering his voice, he decided to break free and leave for Miami on the Mariel boatlift in 1980, months before he was included in a seminal exhibition that announced Cuba’s new direction in contemporary art that became known as the “80s Generation.” The young artist would boost the local Miami art scene and become a well-known pan-American artist as much as a Cuban one.

While Alfonzo’s works don’t tell distinct narratives, it’s hard to ignore the messages of darkness that are told throughout, especially as the late 1980s unfolded and AIDS became an unescapable reality. Alfonzo died at age 40 of complications from the disease, in 1990, shortly before he was to be exhibited in a show at the Whitney Museum. ARTnews called him one of 10 Artists to Watch in the 1990s. His short life in art is eminently worth witnessing.

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