Wednesday, May 23, 2012

False Claims and Vaporous Assertions

Unbending in his vehemence the Cuban master Micah Carpentier remains the unrivaled virtuoso of the Latin American avant-garde. People still talk about his hoarse,orphic voice and how it conveyed such authority and melody and grace.

So much of his work is the stuff of legend considering how after a brief embrace by Castro he was shunned and reviled by the official Communist commissars of art and culture. Some of his works were successfully smuggled out of the country, some were hidden or stored in remote corners of his beloved Havana and some were destroyed either inadvertently or out of malice.

For years I had heard rumors about a lost grand mural. People talked about a strange, cryptically encoded, autobiographical masterpiece. They spoke of a furiously painted carnival of lusty flesh, an ironic homage to early Etruscan erotica. Others spoke of an overtly seditious critique of totalitarianism and compared it to Guernica and Los Desastres de la Guerra.
 It appears that the lost mural has been found!
Los Amantes de la Partida Entre los Polos de Competencia del Deseo, Micah Carpentier, 1968

Recent renovations at the Palacio de Aldama uncovered a previously unknown wine cellar that still bares the inscription "Libaciones Almacenan Aquí Miguel de Aldama." Inside this crypt, rolled like a carpet and encrusted with mold, Micah Carpentier's lost masterwork Los Amantes de la Partida Entre los Polos de Competencia del Deseo was discovered. Three meters high and over five and a half meters long, the work was in desperate need of restoration. In a unique arrangement with the Península Ibérica Instituto de Conservación y el Revisionismo, the work left Cuba for eighteen months and was subjected to the most scrupulous and comprehensive process of repair and research.

I was among a privileged group of scholars and specialists who were invited to participate in this amazing endeavor.

David Schoffman at the Península Ibérica Instituto de Conservación y el Revisionismo, 2011

One piece of disturbing but not altogether surprising scholarship emerged from the study of the mural. It seems that Carpentier had at his disposal at least half a dozen assistants helping him complete the work. Among his team, two names stood out. One was Sidhartha De Corazon who today is considered one of Mexico's great political cartoonists and was instrumental in preparing the glassy oil gessoed surface that was critical for the painting's resilient pigmentation. The other was my good friend Currado Malaspina whose contribution to the work still remains vague.

What has been made absolutely clear by this enterprise is that Malaspina's much heralded series Palimpsest, a work of unquestionable quality, is for all intents and purposes a direct, naked and shameless derivative of Carpentier's Los Amantes.

Palimpsest #3, Currado Malaspina 2011
 What a stinking disappointment!

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