The Signs Pile Up: Paintings by Pedro Álvarez is the first comprehensive exhibition in the U.S. on the artist and his work. Pedro Álvarez (1967-2004) was one of the leading artists who established themselves in Cuba during the 1990s, a period of time that has been called the Special Period, or Periodo Especial, a time of economic crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Álvarez utilized collage and appropriation in his evocative, large-scale paintings as a postmodern technique for examining cultural identity. He often juxtaposed different time periods from Cuba, along with references to U.S. popular culture from the 50s to the 90s. After moving to Spain, his interests broadened into explorations of transnationalism, among other topics. Much of the subject matter in the paintings deals with the cultural interchange between Cuba and the U.S., Afro-Cuban history, U.S. slavery, the effects of the legalization of the U.S. dollar in Cuba in the 90s, and the role of landscape painting within a highly charged socio-political context.
The exhibition is accompanied by a bi-lingual book, co-published by UCR Sweeney Art Gallery and Smart Art Press, with essays by Tyler Stallings, Kevin Power, Antonio Eligio Fernández (Tonel), Orlando Hernández, Ry Cooder, and Tom Patchett.