b. Havana 1953
The 1981 exhibition Volume One marked the takeoff of the “Cuban Renaissance” in visual arts (Camnitzer). Among the artists participating in that exhibition was Rogelio López Marin (Gory), one of the main practitioners of hyper-photorealist painting on the island. Since he did not have time to finish the painting he was working on, for Volume One Gory submitted a photograph of the unfinished canvas, turning his contribution into a conceptual work. Having worked as a photographer for Revolución y Cultura magazine (1975-1991)—at that time renowned for its visual impact—and having won awards for his photo essays (Morell, 2006), from that point forward Gory laid down his brushes to plunge into the world of photography.
John Lennon dates from this germinal period. When the musician was killed in 1981, the shock extended not only to the music world, but to his admirers in Cuba. Many years would have to pass before Fidel Castro would dedicate a statue in honor of the English musician, and on the island the Beatles’ legacy existed alongside the ban imposed on them. Gory paid tribute to Lennon with a small shrine, in the fashion of Latin American altars, piling up before it musical instruments, flowers, and candles, in the style of the photomontage used on the notorious Sgt. Pepper’s record album cover.
The images have been saturated with color, imitating vintage hand-colored photographs, which is why he delighted in “painting” the sky an “unrealistic” blue. At this time, Gory’s image intervention was done by hand. Later, he would embark on the digital manipulations and tinkering that distinguish his current work.
Humorously, the Cuban artist placed his peculiar “monument” at Parque Lenin, a popular park for family and cultural leisure on the outskirts of Havana, which had been open since the early 1980s. It was Gory’s way of “proposing” a change of name for the park. This is one of the conceptual aspects of this piece, a subtle allusion implicit in the tribute to Lennon, who had become a symbol of freedom of expression.
Originally conceived as an illustration, in the end the piece was not included in a book. It is a sui generis piece, in the sense that from the beginning it was conceived as a self-contained image, unlike the “classic” series Gory would develop later: the award-winning one at the Landscape Salon 1982, for instance, and the polyptych It is only water in a stranger’s tear (1986).
The subsequent photo series returned to Gory’s fundamental motif: an encrypted vision of his surroundings. When he was able to start traveling, the range of these works broadened, and Gory became a watchful observer of new environments. During a lengthy hiatus in 1991-2001, his focus shifted back to painting. When he took up the camera again in 2001 with The City, a series inspired by New York, his work showed technical as well as conceptual changes. From this point on Gory started exploring the possibilities of the digital camera and different printing techniques. These experiments made him consider new perspectives, including new ways of manipulating images. As for the conceptual side, he stopped trying to conceal the images’ meanings, instead taking pleasure in their purely esthetic beauty. With The City, he managed a perfect transition between the earlier series and the new ones, capturing scenarios that look manipulated but are actually straightforward snapshots taken in New York.
Gory’s photographic body of work is indebted to his paintings, establishing between the two media a feedback, a “give and take” from the canvas to the camera and vice versa. His perspicacious eye can discover the most surreal situations in everyday reality, and by capturing them through his lens makes us gaze with fresh eyes.