Carlos Garaicoa, Fixing the rizoma

The Museum of Modern Art in Medellín (MAMM) recently opened Bienes Mostrencos (Unclaimed Goods), a new exhibition of work by Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa. In a pre-opening conversation presented at the museum’s Ciudad del Rio headquarters, Garaicoa acknowledged the role that Colombia as a whole had played as a witness to his creative evolution over the years.

On view through August 8, Bienes Mostrencos has already been reviewed in Colombian newspapers such as El Mundo. Presenting eight series of works, the exhibition offers a tour through Garacoa´s principal artistic obsessions: the city, memory, forgetfulness, and the scars left on the urban landscape. Utilizing a range of mediums, from drawings, photos, and laser installations to models and maquettes made of wax, Japanese paper, and wood, Garaicoa questions the nature of large cities and how social change affects them.

As a traveller, he has been able to trace certain urban phenomena in cities like Havana and New York, as well as on the battlefields of Angola, which he then explored in sculptures and photos. One of the shots on view at MAMM was inspired by the city of Medellín and the architectural relics left behind by its drug-trafficking past. In this work, Garaicoa portrays buildings once owned by drug bosses that are now empty and abandoned.

Garaicoa’s artistic vision took shape in the 1990s during the Special Period, an era of severe economic hardship. Initially, his focus was the ruined and run-down Havana of the time, but later broadened to encompass other cities worldwide. As a result, Garaicoa has been invited to participate in international art events such as the Biennale in Venice. Speaking to the public in Medellin, Garaicoa said that Bienes Mostrencos is not intended to to define macro-stories or exercise social criticism. “I developed this project while travelling across the city, finding buildings I had been pursuing for years in Havana, New York, Europe, which are a constant motif in my works,” he said. The artist donated two works from the exhibition to MAMM.

In the United States, Garaicoa’s work was recently seen in Changing the Focus: Latin American Photography 1990-2005 at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California. The international group show, which closed May 2, also included such artists as Alfredo Jaar, Vik Muniz, and Gabriel Orozco.