Daydreams of Havana, and Other Cities, Too.
May 19, 2005. By AMEI WALLACH
Walking the dilapidated streets of Havana, the Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa imagined an alternative universe. He pondered the Art Deco facades behind which dogs prowled debris-strewn lots and the disintegrating columns that supported nothing but sky. In 1993 he began transforming those ruins into artworks that seem as evocative as the city itself.
He would pretend to prop up a building's walls with wooden beams and then photograph the results. On another photograph of a crumbling site he would superimpose absurd drawings or the outlines of utopian architectural structures. In 1996 he took his obsessions with cityscapes on the road, in an exhibition at the Art in General gallery in Manhattan that explored the relationship between Havana and New York. Several of the works featured an object photographed on the streets of both cities. Another juxtaposed a photograph of a young Cuban in Havana who literally wore his urban dream on his arm in the form of a tattoo of the World Trade Center towers with a photograph of the actual towers.
A growing number of artists around the world have begun looking at their city's streets as metaphors for politics, culture and history. Mr. Garaicoa's tragicomic view of Havana travels particularly well. At 37, he is a rising star of international art fairs who has translated his urban excavations into riffs not just on Havana but on cities as disparate as Moscow and Los Angeles...