Related: Anthony Goicolea
Anthony Goicolea’s Related is a web of personal narratives about the Cuban-American artist’s familial, religious, and cultural heritage. The artist strings together a complex series of dialectics denoting his experience of cultural dislocation, assimilation, and desire to maintain ancestral histories.
A relatively affluent Catholic family struggling to live freely within a burgeoning Communist regime, the Goicoleas fled Cuba for the southern U.S. in 1961 following the Bay of Pigs Invasion. While they maintained a continuity of Cuban traditions, partial assimilation into North American culture naturally ensued. What tangible evidence remains of the Goicoleas period in Cuba are a few keepsakes, including vernacular studio portrait images taken prior to 1961. These photographs depict four generations of the artist’s maternal and paternal ancestors wearing their Sunday best.
The studio portraits serve as Goicolea’s initial source material to meditate on his lineage. Producing several generations of imagery from these portraits, he metaphorically builds “generations” of meaning. Beginning with his drawings and paintings of the appropriated studio photographs in negative opposite, Goicolea moves beyond traditional boundaries of photography and notions of authorship. His apparitional images transcribed solely by sight are reminiscent of early Daguerreotype portraits and analog photographic processes.
Goicolea then creates photographs of these negative drawings, re-enlivening his ancestors by dually reversing them from negative to positive, left to right. Nailing these photographs on telephone poles and trees amidst his family´s adopted environs in the U.S., Goicolea evokes ideas of cultural dislocation. These environmental portraits take form as wanted ads or missing posters, as well as introduce the idea of martyrdom.
In 2008, Anthony Goicolea was the first of his relatives to visit Cuba following their 1961 departure. Navigating his ancestral homeland using rough maps drawn by his family, Goicolea renders Cuban landmarks in various stages of decay to suggest architecture of the past or metaphysical constructions.
Related is Goicolea’s real and imagined vision of his personal history. Complex and nostalgic, it invites us to unearth a series of metaphors, ancestral references, and constructed mythologies embedded within each layer of the media about a Cuban-American experience.
Notes on a selection of work from the exhibition
Day for Night
In Day for Night, the artist reflects upon his personal story – his chosen artistic discipline – and weaves it into an image featuring the Escuelas Nacionales de Arte. Rendering the daytime sky into night, Goicolea illuminates hurricane tracks traveling through Cuba into the Atlantic Basin beginning in 1961, the year his family fled the country.
Following the Revolution of 1959, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara commissioned the Escuelas Nacionales de Arte on the grounds of the former Havana Country Club. The campus was designed to embrace the optimism of the era and greatly expand artistic education within the Republic. Five schools for ballet, music, drama, visual arts, and modern and folk dance connected through an organic web of Catalan vaulted structures. Following the construction of two schools from 1961 to 1965, the project was labeled overtly bourgeois and building suspended due to a housing shortage. In 1999, construction resumed. Today, the Escuelas Nacionales de Arte is a striking example of Cuba’s reinvention of architecture during the fledgling Revolutionary period.[i]
For Anthony Goicolea’s Cuban-born relatives, perceptions of a place left behind in 1961 evolved with distance and time. Born in the U.S. ten years after his family’s departure, Goicolea grew up with an abstract relationship to the country.
Goicolea describes his first visit to his ancestral homeland as guided by a “strange sense of nostalgia for something I have never been a part of or experienced directly.”
In 2008, Goicolea visited his paternal grandfather’s former home near Havana. On site, he found remains of a saltwater fed pool. In The Baths, Goicolea fuses the remains of pools located in his grandfather’s neighborhood with his imagined vision of their original architecture.
One of several sites Goicolea visited during his visit to Cuba was his maternal ancestors’ sugar farm in the countryside. In Cane, Goicolea composites the farmland with other metaphorical references about his family’s history and journey: an agricultural trough from a neighboring tobacco farm, strings of lights, and telephone poles.
Goicolea uses these family studio portraits as source material to re-create ties to his ancestors. He forms a series of binaries referencing film-based wet photographic processes by re-drawing the portraits in negative and photographing them in positive. Following, Goicolea posts these images on telephone poles amidst his family’s new environs in the southern U.S. It’s there that Goicolea’s experience of cultural dislocation manifests itself in the form of wanted ads or missing posters, as well as metaphors for Christ on the cross – signalling his Catholic heritage. This final demonstration of Goicolea’s family portraits are fourth generation reproduction photographs, thus mimicking the lineage depicted in the source imagery.
[i] Loomis, John. Revolution of Forms: Cuba’s Forgotten Art Schools. New Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999.
March 12 - April 25, 2010
Houston Center for Photography for FotoFest 2010
Artist / Photographer