By Keith Christiansen

Many black and white and colour images of work. comprises historical past and outlines.

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But what if you get imprisoned by grief? When someone you love dies, it’s like the grief is deep, dark, cold water, and you’re in it. At first there is an anchor, a very heavy anchor, attached to your ankle. You sink, you struggle, you can’t get out, but most people find a way to keep their nose and mouth just out of the water, barely, to keep breathing and stay alive. Normally, the anchor holding you there gets lighter with time, dissolving like a slow-fizzing Alka-Seltzer, so you’re still in the water for a while but your head is up, and then your shoulders, and then, miraculously, you are up on the shore, a new shore.

In the center was a black, plastic saint, which may have once been his mother’s. In Santeria, a mix of African and Caribbean belief, of Yoruba traditions and Catholic ritual, there is a porous border between human and spirit worlds, and sometimes no border at all. The ancestors are always here. The same year Alfonso died, a mother in New York, a santera, with 33 the help of her twenty-year-old daughter, suffocated her other daughter, a teenager, with a plastic bag. The girl had exhibited signs of what in secular American culture would be called serious mental illness, then diagnosed and pathologized.

The world is a very lonely, despairing place for many. People suffer, and get stuck in their suffering, and then, after a while, they believe that there will be no end to this suffering, this exhausting hopelessness about everything. His late art points to dissociation, incoherence, self-loathing, and paranoia. But I’m trying, as I sit here, to turn this around. I’m thinking that if you were a person who, like Alfonso, concocted a shrine to the dead in which your own reflection constantly figured, and was always part of this wall and that wall and the ceiling and the floor, 49 then you were familiar, in your way, with walking among them.

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A Caravaggio Rediscovered The Lute Player by Keith Christiansen

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