Though the works of Kadir Lopez and Mikel Alatza seem to very have little to do with other- Lopez restores vintage signage from pre-Communist Cuba and Alatza is fascinated by the celebrity and non-celebrity- each artist is in fierce negotiation with the past is trying to reclaim it in the present.
“Signs of Cuba” is an assemblage of vintage marketing signs recovered by Kadir Lopez from the streets of Havana after Castro imposed his Communist regime. The metal signage that promoted American companies such as Wells Fargo, Coca Cola, and Esso gasoline are distant reminders of the close ties between the United States and Cuba. In piecing together history, Lopez began purchasing these signs that had been burned and shot in junkyards throughout Cuba, and collaged each one with an archival photograph. In Shell, Mixed Media the outline of the Shell logo houses an image of an overthrown car seesawing on its roof. The vehicle transformed from a reliable form of transportation to a mess of chrome and spinning white wall tires. Tome Coca Cola is a battered sign that has sustained multiple bullets, and etched into the fiery red Coke logo is an expansive photograph of the Club de Cantineros de la Republica de Cuba. By juxtaposing car companies like Ford with images of dilapidated vehicles and ruined urban streets with “delicious and refreshing” Coca Cola, Lopez reveals the irony of pre-Castro Cuba and the façade of commodities.
Between the years of 1989 and 1990 the late German Contemporary artist Martin Kippenberger commissioned Mikel Alatza, and consequently a large portion of Alatza’s work celebrates and even tries to unhinge the illusive figure revered equally for his talent and air of mystery. Behind the eclectic and boisterous body of work that Kippenberger left behind, his persona remains cloaked in a shroud of mystery. Alatza presents the variable visages of Kippenberger rendered in oil on linen in a six-panel series titled Kippenberger, Pageant Quality Series. Mounted on plywood and held in place by wire and stucco, the series adopts richness through the rough use of materials. The sculptural properties of each panel highlights a specific area of the face (the nose, eye, mouth), as if Alatza is providing the viewer with a magnifying glass through which to further investigate the subject. Adjacent to the Pageant Quality Series is a large-scale portrait titled Prize Winner, a portrait rendered in a lighter hand, indicative of the colorful street painting in Venice. The portrait memorializes to Kippenberger who is depicted with a rose in his mouth and a piercing gaze looking off into the distance. The cursive text arches around his head and beneath his chest, and reads “dead success, still life.” Alatza seems to have taken a cue from Kippenberger as “still life” can refer to the style of painting as “still life” or “life” trumps Kippenberger’s own death.