Carlos Garaicoa is a distinguished political artist who began making work in the 1990s. He is Cuban and he makes work largely about Cuba, using the crumbling buildings of Havana as a tool to look at the wider implications of what has been allowed to happen.
The sadness of the dilapidation of these beautiful buildings is most evident in the small room in which recent photographs are juxtaposed with the ghostly presence of crystal models of their original state. In the main gallery carpets are combined with videos. The images woven into the surfaces are taken from old signs on the pavements outside once grand department stores, now relics of a kind of consumerism which post-Fidel is beginning to creep back.
Upstairs there are 8 diptychs which all consist of photographs of early advertisments painted on tiles, this time from a pharmacy in Madrid. The artist has then made his own version and called the results Ceramicas Porno-indignadas. And so the elephant once used to sell a pharmacy product now stands triumphantly on the bleeding body of its rider and the text reads ‘Smash Debtors and Reds! Elephants!’. We are encouraged to recall the fact that Spain once subjected Cuba to centuries of colonial oppression.
Garaicoa has said that he has a great interest in the representation of urban space ‘as a means to approach other issues, closer to fiction and history’. The work is both rational and wayward and the combination is unsettling. This is an exhibition in which you need to spend some time.
Carlos Garaicoa is at Parasol Unit in Wharf Road until 3 June.