The Afro-Caribbean art of Roberto Diago arrives at Casa de América

Darkness was the beginning is the first institutional exhibition of the prolific Cuban artist Roberto Diago (Havana, 1971), who has become one of the greatest exponents of Afro-Caribbean art. In his work, the artist reflects his interest in the legacy of African culture, carried by slaves from their continent of origin to Cuba, and how it is presented in today’s society.

In this exhibition, thirteen pieces are exhibited, including paintings, installations and sculptures. His curator, Omar Pascual Castillo, presents them in groups of seven sets, between which a space is created inhabited by their walkers: those of Diago – silent and accusatory figures – and ourselves. And each space in this exhibition has been designed so that visitors feel part of it, aiming to create an intimate connection between Diago’s works and the attendees themselves.

Diago approaches art from his racial condition as a black man, urbanite, Havana, descendant of artists and musicians. Heir to a legacy and bearer of a culture that permeates him, Diago is a creator who works intensely from different languages: drawing, painting, sculpture and installation. In the words of the curator of the exhibition, Omar Pascual Castillo, <<Invert the scriptural logic of the “blank page” knowing that, in the beginning, it was always darkness where the light was born, and not vice versa, without fear of its “ blank page”, Roberto Diago has been writing his story, visually, re-writing that of his contemporaries, by sharing his work (…) because it embraces us, just as the universe embraces this globe where we live>>.

Among Diago’s many influences we can find the anthropocentric tradition of Cuban art, such as the work of Wifredo Lam; the mysterious painting of his paternal grandfather, Roberto Diago; the voluminous sculptural fleshiness of Agustín Cárdenas at the threshold and in the middle of the 20th century; the fabulous and mystical work of Manuel Mendive; the neo-expressionist graphology of Eduardo Choco; or the anthropological research of José Bedia and Marta María Pérez Bravo.


Exposing this “cosmogony”, ancestral and contemporary, is what this exhibition aims to do curatorially speaking. An individual exhibition that was already exhibited at the CAJI (Juan Ismael Art Center) in Fuerteventura and that now arrives at Casa de América with the incorporation of new pieces, such as the floor installation Queloides III (2023) made expressly for the rooms from House of America.

The exhibition also has a monographic publication on Diago’s work, with authors such as Bárbaro Martínez-Ruiz, PhD at Yale University and director of Orbis Africa Lab; Suset Sánchez Sánchez, curator of Latin American art of the MNCARS Collection; or Janet Batet, independent curator and contributor to the Nuevo Herald of Miami.