“Related” is the latest in an ongoing series in which Goicolea uses drawing, photography, sculpture and installation to explore his family history and identity as well as larger themes of ritual, assimilation and alienation.
Like many first generation immigrants, Goicolea experiences a sense of cultural dislocation. Customs and family tradition keep immigrants linked to a mythical homeland while the tendency to assimilate into their surroundings isolates and estranges them from their origins and creates a sense of alienation.
Tackling these issues, Goicolea has executed a series of portraits based on old photographs of family members, known and unknown, while they were still living in Cuba. By drawing and painting these portraits, Goicolea creates a reinterpreted, second-generation reproduction of their likenesses. These images are drawn to resemble daguerreotypes and are executed in negative on layered Mylar and glass. After drawing his own negatives, Goicolea then inverts them to create a positive photographic mirror of each drawing. Then Goicolea mounts these drawings and paintings in rural areas of the South where he was raised and in New York where he lives now. Pasted on trees, telephone poles, and the sides of buildings like missing persons ads or wanted posters, the drawings are then photographed again in a third generation reproduction, thus further removing the image from its original source.
In a large cinematic drawing/photo diptych, Goicolea assembles 4 generations from both sides of his family around a long dining room table. Each member is drawn in the most idealized state from when they were living in Cuba such that his great grand mother is the same age as his aunt. The gathering re-stages a “Last Supper” of sorts as it memorializes past relatives and reflects a fictionalized family history distorted through time and oral tradition.
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. He visited the homes, schools and churches of his parents and grandparents. The resulting photographs are devoid of people and color. Digitally cobbled together from locations through out Havana, Goicolea uses the architecture as a means to excavate his family’s past. He further manipulates these images by painting over small voids of space or drawing on top of the doctored images, thus re-imagining and re-imaging the remains from another time.
The Related series also enlists the use of several sculptural installations. Two glass display cases house drawings of the artist’s grandmother’s skeleton, arranged and framed in fragments so as to mimic religious reliquaries or anthropological remains.
A second sculpture bisects the gallery in the form of a three-metre long, low-lying wall made from translucent glass cast in the shape of concrete masonry blocks. On top of the wall, which references the sea wall running the length of Havana harbour, family portraits drawn on Mylar are obscured and sealed inside a collection of clear, hand-blown glass bottles. A third sculptural installation measuring two and a half meters long is comprised of black enamel and concrete in the shape of a low-lying wall or cement masonry foundation. The shallow wall bisects a black outlined architectural blueprint rendered on the gallery floor. The foot-print of the house is based on the home that Goicolea’s parents left behind in Havana shortly after the revolution.
While the exhibition continues to explore the artist’s own unique identity and background, the new body of work is marked with a poignant search for connections and roots to the past, reflected in the importance and symbolic use of Cuban and historic family imagery.