Carlos Alfonzo Born in Havana, (1950-1991). Noted Cuban-American painter utilizing multiple symbolic and iconic themes from his native homeland.
"In Cuba I was a well known artist. I had found a formula --swarms of little figurines and the integration of literary texts--through which I could deal with many themes without raising suspicion or criticism. Painters younger than I were told that I was something like the limit of what was allowed to go beyond could cause problems with the cultural authorities.
When I arrived in the United States it took me more than a year to start painting again. The arrival, the trip from the Port of Mariel, were a shock. My fundamental search has been in the structural form how to paint an image, how to let the hand go. This has been my only preoccupation, since I have never had conceptual conflicts with my work.
My interest as a painter is to create new symbols, rather than employ conventional imagery. My identification with religion is that of creator more than interpreter. The symbology is important the tongue for me represents oppression; the cross--and I use many crosses in my work-- has mystical connotations, it represents o spiritual balance, sacrifice; the tears are a symbol of exile. My paintings hove to do with my exile, with my personal drama as I see it."
Alfonso was the subject of a retrospective that focused on the large-scale canvases he made in the United States between 1982 and his early death in 1991 at age 40. One wished to see more of his Cuban works of the late '70s, but perhaps they were not available. His work changed vastly after his first visit to New York in 1982.
He breathed in the prevailing winds of neo-Expressionism, and retreated to Miami in 1984 to paint his response to it, most successfully in canvases such as When Tears Can't Stop (1986), bristling with crosses and daggers. In God in the Studio II (1989), Alfonso's motif of visionary eyes are pictured passing through a floating halo, with a palette and brushes below. These works are better when compared not to his contemporaries but to his forerunners, painters like Lam or Cobra artists like Alechinsky or Jorn.
Alfonso's paintings of 1990-91 are transitional, featuring pared-down imagery done largely in black. Witness directly references the gray and black last works of Rothko. Diagnosed with HIV, the artist set out to create his own epitaph in works that deal with blood, white cells and a supplicant figure. They will surely form an important chapter in a future study on art in the age of AIDS.
He died in 1991 from complications related to AIDS