‘Tub-Hell Act II’, 2010 by Luis Cruz Azaceta. Acrylic, charcoal, oil-stick on canvas.
Luis Cruz Azaceta was born in Havana, Cuba. As a teenager, he witnessed many acts of violence on the streets of Havana: bombs in stores, cinemas and theaters; shoot-outs, arrests and torture of citizens by Batista secret police. In 1959, the Cuban revolution brought jubilation and celebration when Castro promised to restore Cuba’s constitution and free elections. Months later executions began, businesses were confiscated and some closed. Azaceta’s experiences under both Batista and post-revolution impacted his vision—creating a sensitivity towards violence, human cruelty, injustice and alienation—which later become central themes in his work.
Since the late 1970s the paintings and drawings of Luis Cruz Azaceta have been taking the moral and ethical pulse of this country. In usually large-format works, executed with highly expressive colors, Cruz Azaceta has dealt with themes of urban violence, the type of personal isolation that comes with living in a large and overcrowded city, the hellish conditions created by mismanaged government, the abuses and oppression of dictatorships and, in a number of highly affecting works done back in the late 1980s, the ravages of AIDS.
Azaceta is a true maverick...his art does not look much like anyone else’s...He is a devotee of visual experiment who often develops parallel series in several media at once, and he has a tendency to combine materials in totally unexpected ways, as with his extended series of photographs mounted on twisted metal stud. Last but not least, Azaceta works constantly, is extremely prolific...Day after day, Azaceta, like most of us but differently, uses all his effort figuring out how to move forward, while never permitting himself to lose sight of what’s been left behind.
For him, art is not a vehicle by which one achieves aesthetic satisfaction and an escape from common history and time. Rather, it is a way of facing the world. Azaceta recognizes that change is inevitable, and that all of us are implicated by reality and time passing.