Much of Kadir López’s work is inspired by a meditation on time: blurring past, present, and future, he critiques the effects of progress, or lack thereof, and its spiritual, economic, and political effects on society. In his series Signs, Kadir repurposes porcelain-lacquered steel advertising signs from pre-Revolutionary Cuba that celebrate the island as the economic and cultural capitol of the Americas by fusing black and white photographs chronicling events of a bygone era. The irony achieved by juxtaposing image and text serves to provide a deeper, more complicated reading of the island’s history.
While exploring the rich visual history of the island, it became evident that a mingling of realities had a long history in a nation that has struggled with issues of independence and identity for most of the 20th century. In his new body of work Palimpsest, Kadir continues to explore the complexities of his country’s past through a series of text based images created by exposing the back of photographs once used by the Cuban government in print media. Literally meaning “scraped clean and used again”, palimpsests were originally manuscripts on parchment in which text was erased and written over. The process, however, did not entirely obscure or destroy what was underneath. In the case of the particular photographs Kadir uses, we find a myriad of information that speaks of the shifting realities bore by a country in revolution. Various captions –at times hand-written, typed, taped-over, even blacked-out – describing the image are inscribed on the back of the photograph producing a recondite narrative of past events. The newly created artwork Palimpsest by Kadir provides us with a clearer understanding of the present. Born from the layering of all past experiences, it is much like the notion of the present Thomas Carlyle wrote of in 1929:
“Meanwhile, we too admit that the present is an important time; as all present time necessarily is. The poorest Day that passes over us is the conflux of two Eternities; it is made up of currents that issue from the remotest Past, and flow onwards into the remotest Future. We were wise indeed, could we discern truly the signs of our own time; and by knowledge of its wants and advantages, wisely adjust our own position in it. Let us, instead of gazing idly into the obscure distance, look calmly around us, for a little, on the perplexed scene where we stand. Perhaps, on a more serious inspection, something of its perplexity will disappear, some of its distinctive characters and deeper tendencies more clearly reveal themselves; whereby our own relations to it, our own true aims and endeavours in it, may also become clearer.”
Museum hours: Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm, Fri & Sat 10am-5pm, Closed Sunday