I just discovered through a Facebook post by France Negrón-Muntaner, that ADÁL—Adalberto Maldonado (1948-2020)—has passed away. As she states, Adál was “one of the most transformative photographers of the last decades anywhere in the world.” My most heartfelt condolences for all of his family, friends, collaborators, and everyone, far and wide, who admired his work.
For the first time, last semester (Spring 2020), I included his work in one of my first-year seminars (“Me, Myself, and I: Exploring Autobiography”) along with sever essays by Ilán Stavans, from the book I Love My Selfie (Duke University Press, 2017). My students loved (or, in very few cases, strongly disliked) his work and, whatever their feelings were, Adál’s work produced some of the most riveting class discussions in my many years of teaching.
Here is a brief paragraph from his Wikipedia page, which sums up the themes that fascinated my students (and me, of course):
“As have many other photographers of his generation – most notably Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Lucas Samaras – and due to his complex view of double identity, Adál has systematically explored identity issues to their ultimate consequences. From suggestive, “surreal” photographic collages in the early 1970s, to the ironic concreteness of his Auto-Portraits series, and, finally, to the creation of an ethereal, ubiquitous country where he and his Out of Focus Nuyoricans colleagues live, Adál has collapsed self-portraiture’s allegedly self-referential quality. Indeed, a great deal of his work’s satiric trademark arises from the constant mockery of the possibility of ever achieving an ultimate, definitive picture of one’s self.”
[Note: Stubbornly, in keeping with my serious case of “grammatical correctness,” I used to refuse to use the accent on Adál; now, I say, “May you rest in peace, power, and light, dear Adál… I will never write your artistic name without an accent again.”]