Alberto Diaz Gutiérrez (Korda), “Guerrillero Heroico”



May 15 - August 2, 2015 at Museum of Latin American Art [MOLAA], Long Beach

by Shirle Gottlieb



We've seen pictures of its vintage automobiles; and newsreels are fascinating by virtue of the facades of its aging Art Nouveau buildings. We admire the success of its children's music program, while articles appear about the quality of health care received by its people. But what about Cuba's visual arts during the most repressive and isolated years following Castro’s Revolution? Now that the United States has resumed negotiations with this small island off the coast of Florida, everyone is wondering what kind of work was being produced and what picture of Cuba it reflected. With the opening of "Korda: Photography and the Cuban Revolution," a series of vintage, black and white photographs from the Pieczenik private collection, we get an intimate look at Cuban society from the late 50s and early 60s.




Alberto Diaz Gutiérrez (Korda), “Guerrillero Heroico,” 1960, photograph.  Courtesy of the Pieczenik collection.



Born in Cuba in 1928, Alberto Diaz Gutierrez became known as "Korda" when he was an award-winning fashion photographer. Recognizing him as the best artist in this field, Cuba awarded Korda the "Palma de Plata" prize in 1959 — the same year that he began his documentation of the Cuban Revolution. Following that prestigious prize, while still recognized as an important fashion photographer, Korda traveled to European cities where fashion work was in demand.


It was not until his iconic photograph of Che Guevara (the notorious, Marxist-Argentinian guerrilla leader) was reproduced around the world that Korda was recognized for his work as a documentarian. In fact, four drawers of images that captured the revolution, a cause to which he was fiercely devoted, were found in his Paris studio when he died ln 2001. Korda was still doing fashion work in Europe right up until his death. But since he had access to many Cuban Revolutionary leaders from the start, many of these vintage photographs contain relaxed images of Guevara, Castro and their inner circle in their leisure moments playing golf, fishing, skiing, and traveling around the world. Other portray them working in the fields or otherwise mingling with farmers. The nineteen black and white photographs on display here are well selected and, given the passage of half a century, historically fascinating. As one might expect, most of the images are "social realistic" in concept — propaganda images that convey the positive benefits that every Cuban will experience once the Revolution is over.


When Korda was asked about the dichotomy of the two disparate subjects he photographed, he simply replied: "I have loved the beauty of women as much as the beauty of men who led the Revolution."