Like his Detroit photographs, Stan Douglas’s Cuba series features abandoned buildings, crumbling facades, and nature’s almost mythic repossession of the land. Architectural, historical, and geographic differences aside, the effect is much the same: One sees a place devoid of human presence where the past and present clash in dramatic juxtapositions. Instead of the crumbling mortar and littered streets of Motor City, the battle between prosperity and poverty is waged in the more ambiguous ruins of the Cuban revolution. Douglas shows us once lavish villas, exclusive beach resorts, opulent churches and hotels that have been transformed into schools, libraries, parking lots, and public housing. While the artist smartly steers clear of any political blame, his vision of a failed utopia is nonetheless melancholic in tone. Alongside sun-dappled courtyards, ’50s-era cars, and gold-leaf moldings, he shows strings of laundry, graffiti, and old guard towers.
With both a documentary and cinematic eye at work, Douglas combines realistic detail with a kind of nostalgic confusion, much like modern-day Cuba herself. The results are truly captivating.