Once Removed

“Once Removed” is the latest in an ongoing series in which Goicolea uses drawing, photography, and video installation to explore his family history and identity as well as larger themes of tradition, alienation and assimilation.

Tackling these issues, Goicolea works from photographs of family members, known and unknown, taken while they were still living in Cuba. In this exhibition Goicolea includes drawings of aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins imagined as portrait busts placed behind glass high on make shift pedestals. These images preserve and memorialize his family while simultaneously distorting their histories by placing them just out of reach.

Goicolea confesses to feeling “a strange sense of nostalgia for something I have never been a part of or experienced directly.” In May of 2008 he made his first pilgrimage to Cuba after having received a grant from the CINTAS foundation. He visited the homes, schools and churches of his parents and grandparents. The resulting photographs are populated only by vegetation, architecture, telephone poles, and strung lights. Throughout Havana, Goicolea found and photographed architectural evidence of his family’s past life. He further manipulates these images by staging performances and scenarios in these settings and depicting only the documentation of the aftermath.

In a large, cinematic, three-panel painting, Goicolea assembles four generations from both sides of his family on the family farm, or finca, for a night time portrait. The family members are rendered in their most idealized states from when they were living in Cuba. Thus, his great grand mother is the same age as his aunt or mother. The gathering casts his family as a troup of actors surrounded by film equipment and lights. It memorializes and reflects a fictionalized family history distorted through time and oral tradition.
In the second half of the gallery is a scale model of the home that Goicolea’s parents left behind in Havana shortly after the revolution. Placed atop a pedestal of cement bricks and sealed under glass, the house projects a short video entitled “Displacement”. The video is filmed at night with an infrared camera and marks the first appearance of the artist in his work in over 7 years. Drifting on the water at night, Goicolea jettisons large cement blocks from a small boat and then disappears into the horizon.

The work Goicolea first become known for exuded a playful narcissism. However his more recent work is marked by an earnest, almost wistful search for roots or connections to his past. Here, as in his multiple self-portraits, Goicolea is exploring his identity; only this time he approaches it from a poignant awareness of the cultural ingredients and familial history that make us who we are.