Carlos Alfonzo (b. 1950, Havana-d.1991, Miami): a painter who emigrated from Cuba to the United States during the Mariel boatlift in 1980 and earned recognition as a major artist. Alfonzo made expressionistic canvases; passionate, colorful works, with strong black outlines and Cuban Santerian symbols. Much of his work was autobiographical. His work was represented in the Outside Cuba exhibition and the Cuba-USA: The First Generation traveling exhibition and he was the subject of several solo exhibitions in institutions such as the Miami Art Museum, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in North Carolina, the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach and the Hal Bromm Gallery in New York. In 1988 he was included in an exhibition entitled "Three from Miami: Carlos Alfonzo, Deborah Schneider, Purvis Young" at the The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL.
Alfonzo borrowed from Cuban Santería, medieval Catholic mysticism, and tarot cards to build a dense network of symbols floating in huge limpid tears. Oftentimes, his work reflects the violence that Alfonzo experienced before he fled with the Marielitos exiled by Castro in 1980. But the work also holds subtle clues that evoke Alfonzo’s homosexuality and the fear and anger generated by the AIDS epidemic. In the mid-1980s, Americans coming to terms with thousands of deaths began to piece together enormous quilts—as the artist stitched together several canvases for this image—filling them with symbols of suffering, loss, and defiance. In Alfonzo’s painting, the image of a tongue spiked by a dagger is a Santería charm against gossip and the “evil eye,” two responses to HIV-positive men that were common in the epidemic’s early years. Rumors and innuendo shaped the perception that AIDS was only a gay man’s disease, and the evil eye recalls a widespread belief that the tears of the infected carried the virus. Alfonzo died from complications of AIDS in 1991.