In this course, students will explore how painter Carlos Alfonzo uses his expressionist style of painting to create narratives that reference cultural and semantic systems, Cuban Santeria, and other religious practices.
By learning about Alfonzo’s work and expressionist approach to artmaking, students delve into themes of resilience and reflective narration through character creation.
Carlos Alfonzo was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1950. He received a degree in art from Academia San Alejandro in Cuba and later attended the University of Havana where he received a degree in art history in 1977.
An active participant in Cuba’s artistic community during the 1970s, Alfonzo grew increasingly disenchanted with the Revolution, frustrated by travel restrictions and pervasive homophobia. In the short decade between his departure from Cuba during the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and his untimely death in 1991 from AIDS-related complications, he generated a consistent body of work that reinvigorated expressionist painting with unexpected references to many cultural and semantic systems, including Cuban Santería and other religious practices. Although most of Alfonzo’s production involves highly colorful and dynamic compositions, during the last year of his life he radically reduced his color palette, engaging in a concentrated deployment of pictorial markings. The large, somber paintings of this final period pivot on a surprising range of emotional tones and sophisticated dialogue with art history. Alfonzo has emerged over the last twenty years as one of the preeminent painters of the 1980s.