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In this discussion with Geno Rodriguez, Eleanor Heartney, and Victor Zamudio-Taylor, the three scholars consider the work of Cuban-born artist Luis Cruz Azaceta. They analyze the subject matter of his work, and all agree that it is melancholic and focused on the human condition, which is full of pain and suffering, yet they debate the use of the term “victimization” and find “truthful” to be a better term. Zamudio-Taylor notes that Cruz Azaceta’s own self-portrayal becomes almost martyr-like; however, he is supposed to represent the “everyman.” The three believe that the strength of Cruz Azaceta is his ability to paint and in the aesthetic power of his work, which draw in the viewer, despite the disturbing subject matter. This point is important to note, because often his work is only discussed in socio-political terms, which could be limiting, as Heartney points out. Heartney brings up Cruz Azaceta's ability to reference other styles (Expressionism, Geometric Abstraction, and Conceptualism) without appropriating them.
Luis Cruz Azaceta was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1942 and immigrated to the United States in 1960. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is recognized for his paintings featuring figures rendered as self-portraits that are meant to stand for everyman and reflect on the suffering of the human condition. The scholars conversing in this text include the director of the Alternative Museum in New York City, Geno Rodriguez; art critic and writer, Eleanor Heartney; and independent critic and curator specializing in Latin American and Latino art, Victor Zamudio-Taylor. This text appears in the exhibition catalog, Hell: Luis Cruz Azaceta Selected Works 1978-1993. The show was on view in 1994 at the Alternative Museum and featured nineteen paintings and a number of drawings by Cruz Azaceta.