press release

The Galería Elba Benítez presents the work of Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa (Havana, 1967) for the second time at its exhibition venue in Madrid. The artist describes this new exhibition, which brings together ideas and approaches running through his entire oeuvre, as “amusing” and “necessary”.

In his installations, photographs, architectural sketches and videos, Garaicoa sets up an ongoing dialogue with urban space. Cities and words are the mainstay of his entire artistic output. Though his art has explored a number of cities, for many years Havana has served as his laboratory and his main point of reference. Words have been part of his work since the onset, either as texts employed directly in his installations, or as titles suggesting parallel interpretations. Garaicoa, a self-trained artist, relied heavily on the use of text at the beginning of his career before attaining a fully developed visual language.

The works on display in Latin Kings Music Vol. I-V consist of notes, reflections of concepts always present in his oeuvre, but not often shown. Using two black and white images of buildings, pockmarked with bullets, in Madrid, Noticias recientes (España) [Recent News (Spain)], the artist alludes to a universal concept in which episodes of war and violence are interwoven. The drawings Frases para políticos de habla hispana [Phrases for Spanish-Speaking Politicians], from the Estudio tipográfico para Palabras [Typographic Study for Words], suite reflect his interest in the Russian avant-garde style of the early 20th century and in architectural drawing, not to mention his fascination for language.

Descriptive titles crop up once again in the installations employing objects dedicated to famous architects: biting jokes armed with Garaicoa’s critical vision. And in the piece Latin Kings Music Vol. I-V, he makes a selection of music from some of Latin America’s basest clichés. Dedicated to The Rappers of Alcorcón, the piece deals with the more pervasive social conflict of immigration, and, like the rest of the exhibition, it makes a statement.

The sugar model, home to ants, Principios básicos para destruir [Basic Principles to Destroy], reflects the state of constant struggle existing in cities. As in earlier pieces –Ahora juguemos a desaparecer II [Now Let’s Play at Disappearing II, 2002] and In the Mirror (1997)– he employs organic matter doomed to destruction. The exhibition is completed with a number of prints made directly on the wall: stamps in deaf and dumb language and silkscreen prints from the artist’s Tatuajes [Tattoos] suite, which consists of underground comic style drawings.

In addition to these new works, the exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to watch Garaicoa’s videos Habitación de mi negatividad II [Room of My Negativity II, 2004], Cosas que pasan cuando la vida va muy mal [Things that Happen When Life is Going Very Wrong, 2005], Yo no quiero ver más a mis vecinos [I Don’t Want to See My Neighbours Anymore, 2006] and a variety of interviews and documentaries exploring his oeuvre. Lastly, a video called E.G.I.S (2000) –the continuation of an earlier collaboration– by Cuban artist Ezequiel Suárez, who shares Garaicoa’s interest in words,will be projected in the courtyard of the gallery on the opening day.

Carlos Garaicoa’s work has brought him international renown. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held in Spain at the Palau de la Virreina de Barcelona, Casa de América and the Fundación La Caixa, and at prestigious international art venues, such as the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the ICA in Philadelphia, the MOCA (Pacific Design Center) in Los Angeles, the Palazzo delle Papesse in Siena and the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York. He was an invited artist at the 51st Venice Biennale (2005), at the 26th Biennial of Sao Paulo (2004) and Documenta 11 in Kassel (2002). In 2005, he participated, together with other artists, in the New Photography exhibition at the MoMA, and was awarded the 39th International Contemporary Art Prize (Quai Antoine I- Princess Grace Theater, Montecarlo).

Luisa Espino

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Carlos Garaicoa