The year is 1994 and Celia Cruz, The Queen of Salsa, The Voice of Cuba, appears at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables, Florida, dressed in an elegant yellow rumbera dress with arms wide opened, extended outwards. She stands in an expressive and most correct singing posture, surrounded by palm trees and clear blue skies. Cruz’s virtuosity as a singer and performer meets the photographer’s artistic vision and the result is an iconic image; a compelling depiction of the famous sitter, whose likeness has been artfully captured through a synthesis of iconic elements.
When recording hand-written notes left on the verso, the photographs become residues of a personal memory that is part of a larger series of events. The portraits of artists José Bedia and Luis Cruz Azaceta take us to the exhibition organized by MoMa in 1993 “Latin American Artists of the 20th Century”. While this somewhat incomplete survey of Latin American art excluded important artists who, as a consequence, have remained largely ignored; Rodriguez-Duarte’s portraits of artists such as Carmen Herrera, Enrique Riverón and Emilio Sanchez inscribes their historical presence.
Cataloguing reveals a whole lot about photographs and their environments; the archivist enters this system of relations through direct contact with the object. In the particular case of portraits, much is learned through the process of collecting data. Somewhere between research and close examination, I discovered how these portraits constitute points of encounter between the sitters’ self-making and the photographer’s creative outlook.