The art career of Carlos Garaicoa has been truly meteoric. That doesn't mean that he appeared out of nowhere or that sheer luck (or a sudden market opportunity) exempted him from the gradual upward mobility that characterizes the careers of many artists and launched him into celebrity. Garaicoa has always moved forward step-by-step to guarantee a sure advance without setbacks. And this has been possible, not only due to a large dose of talent, originality and creativity, but also to discipline and an enviable ability to organize
Despite their abstract appearance, the bullet holes on the walls that Carlos Garaicoa photographed in Angola (1996-97) are a concrete testimony of the violence of an African war that involved several countries, and in which around 2 000 Cuban troops died. The abstract ceases to be so when we receive the information (unfortunately not included in the titles) that the photograph is about bullet shots on the walls of houses, hospitals and other buildings of the town of Cuito Cuanavale, the scenario of the final battle of that war. Initially, those photographs were part of a provocative project organized by the Angolan artist Fernando Alvim (Memorias Intimas-Marcas, 1997) in which, besides Alvim and Garaicoa, the South African artist Gavin Younge participated. The exhibition aimed at exorcizing that terrible experience and removing the amnesia of some of its participants, making known the psychological wounds of ordinary people, the trauma provoked in the people, the city, the animals and plants by this and any war. Other works by Garaicoa in that project (drawings, videos, installations) addressed the permanent damages of the Angolan War in the minds of the ex-soldiers, or referred to the responsibility of the political leadership.
Seen from another perspective, all Carlos Garaicoa’s works about the war of Angola pose an interesting problem, a latent conflict between ethics and aesthetics. Are we entitled to enjoy the beauty of the horrors of war? His large photos of bullet impacts on the walls of Cuito Cuanavale run the risk that the viewer might detach him/herself from the fact that gave them origin and admire them as simple abstractions, due to their colours and forms. His beautiful photos create an ethical dilemma of aesthetically admiring or enjoying what we should, in truth, reject: violence, weapons, wars. They allow us to meditate on the fact that wounds, like these that we are now admiring in the artistic image of walls with holes, were made in the flesh of men and women from Cuba, Angola and South Africa. But is it not the case in the disasters of daily life reflected by Carlos in many other works, dealing with the deterioration of the cities or with the unfinished state or work stoppage of projects, from the perspective of their inhabitants? How do we admire, without being afraid to do so, his exquisite Crown Jewels, 2009, knowing that in their dungeons, offices or cells people were tortured or imprisoned, who may have believed in the need for freedom or change for human improvement? This is not a passionless, insensitive game, but a therapeutic, even surgical operation. In order to cure, it is often necessary to cause pain or discomfort in the viewer, the patient.