Willy Castellanos is an art historian, curator, and artist, who graduated from the University of Havana with a pioneering research on the reappearance of nudes in Cuban photography (1982-1993) after two decades of absence. His writings have been published in magazines and newspapers such as Arte al Día International, Art Nexus, Revolución y Cultura, Nagary Magazine, El Nuevo Herald and The Sun Sentinel, as well as in several exhibition catalogs in Miami. Guillermo "Willy" Castellanos is co-author of the book Raúl Cañibano, published by the la Colección Fotobolsillo of La Fábrica in Madrid, and is author of the introductory essay of Unofficial, a title published by Kendall Art Center Editorial, Miami.
Castellanos is the co-founder -along with Adriana Herrera, PhD- of Aluna Art Foundation and Aluna Curatorial Collective. Since its creation in 2011, the collective has designed significant curatorial projects. They have opened spaces for a non-hegemonic dialogue on the relationship between art and society, both in the headquarters of the foundation in Miami and in different galleries, museums, and institutions in Lisbon, Siberia, Monaco, Moscow, Houston, and Lima.
A self-taught photographer, Castellanos is the co-author of two artists’ books: El Deseo en el Pavo Real (Historia de una academia de Tango) with writer, composer, and playwright Alberto Munoz (Buenos Aires, 2000); and Obras: 1996-2000 (Group of Authors), both publications of the Secretary of Culture of the City of Buenos Aires. He has participated in several group exhibitions such as Dobleplay: fotografía cubana contemporánea (Photo Museum Cuatro Caminos, Nahualcan, México, 2017); La banalidad del mar: fotografía cubana (Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 2016); Re/Formulations: Narrative Processes (William V. Musto Museum, Union City, New Jersey, 2015); and Rites of Passage: Selection of Cuban Contemporary Photography (Photo Lima, Peru, 2015) among others.
His solo project Exodus: A Missing Page in History, was selected in 2012, as the Anchor Project for the inauguration of the pavilion PhotoAmericas, at ArteAmericas Miami. Then, his photographic exhibition Exodus: Alternate Documents, held at the Centro Cultural Español de Miami, received the Miami Foundation Arts Award for Best Cultural Event in Miami in 2014.
The members of the Aluna Curatorial Collective have curated, among others, Women Weavers: The Warp of Memory (SaludArte Foundation, Miami, 2018); Sonia Falcone: Campos da vida (Palácio Nacional da Ajuda, Lisboa, Portugal, 2017); The Object and the Image; This is Not a Chair Either (Concrete Projects/Doral Contemporary Art Museum, Miami, 2017); Ronald Morán. Diálogos inmateriales (Centro Cultural Español de Miami, 2017); Jorge Eduardo Eielson: The Other Side of Languages (Kabe Contemporary Gallery, Miami, 2016); Arte-Factum/Fictions. Viviana Zargón (Aluna Art Foundation, Miami, 2015); Photo Album: Families in Miami. Lorna Otero (The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami, 2015); Affective Architectures (Aluna Art Foundation, Miami, 2014-2015); Éxodo: documentos alternos (Centro Cultural Español de Miami, 2014); Seminal Art: We are All Co-creators (Siberian Museum of Contemporary Art, Novosibirsk, Western Siberia, 2013); Damien Hirst and Sonia Falcone (General Society Private Banking of Monaco, Mónaco, 2013); Vanished Points and Convergences. Salvadorian Artists in Perspective (Biscayne Art House, Miami, 2013); Body, Maps and Territories: Personal Geographies (Aluna Art Foundation, Miami, 2012); and María Thereza Negreiros: Offerings. Co-curated with Francine Birbrager (Frost Art Museum, Miami, 2012).
Exodus: a missing page in history
By Adriana Herrera
The images shown in Exodus, are endowed with the power to shock that documentary material attains when, challenging the hegemonic, it recounts big history from perspectives which differ from those of power and its discourses, but which are closer to the forgotten epic of a people’s history: a much more real vision of the destinies of common people, reinventing their own lives.
Castellanos was faced with the dilemma of whether or not to record the stampede of the multitudes that in 1994, turned lots, sidewalks and beaches in Havana into improvised boatyards where they built rubber rafts, ropes and rags which they carried on carts, bicycles or on their shoulders to the coast, from where they ventured out into the sea without the government preventing them from traveling northward.
Despite the precariousness of the materials available at that time, during the “Special Period”, and without being deterred by the impossibility to exhibit, he chose to be a witness. And producing day after day the photographic documentation of that exodus of which he knew he must provide recorded evidence, he crossed an unusual frontier in the history of documentary work in the island. For this reason, critic Juan Antonio Molina states: “If a photographic practice deserves being called post-documentary in the Cuban context, such practice is precisely the one that Willy Castellanos engaged in during that summer of 1994.”
“Exodus” documents the exhaustion of the last utopia of the 20th century, and it reconstructs, in the manner of a montage, sequences that include the construction of the rafts, the rites of farewell, and the moment when a wandering crowd assumes the leading role in the epic of the departure that marks a sort of end of its history, without any certainty about the possibility of a new beginning.
The images contain the extreme vulnerability of the characters in Gericault’s “The Raft of the Medusa”. But they also contain the unlikely hope of a portion of humankind ready to reach, whatever the cost, a new territory where life can flourish.
In this sense, “Exodus” is also the chronicle of a wound that remains open, and it refers us to all those who at this very moment, in any part of our Blue Planet, are also traveling northward, struggling against the winds of emigration.