DIAZ, Polibio (1952 -)

Photograph on paper laid down on Alucobond
150 x 300 cm
Date of entry at UNESCO
Country of origin Dominican Rep.
Donating country Dominican Rep.
Donation made to UNESCO by the artist and presented by the Dominican Republic in August 2009.
© Photo: UNESCO
Polibio Diaz

This photo is part of a series entitled "Interiores", created between 2001 and 2004, which illustrate the interiors of Dominican working-class neighborhoods. The horizontal panels’ very large dimensions, close to those of the place that is depicted, actually combines several photos placed next to each other. Through these interiors, Polibio Diaz evokes the lifestyle of the Dominican Republic’s poorest inhabitants, who face economic hardships yet keep their characteristic cheerfulness and joie-de-vivre.

Influenced by an aesthetic inspired by contemporary art movements of the 20th century, such as Cubism or Surrealism, Polibio Diaz continually tries to process the images differently. He thus juxtaposes three or four pictures showing the interiors from different angles, which leads to a multiplication of perspectives and vanishing points. This treatment of space also allows him to simultaneously show both the interior and the exterior of Dominican houses, and use natural light, giving the spectators the impression that they are crossing through the houses. Diaz manages to assemble these images together so they form a coherent whole. The symmetrical composition and the use of color however show that Diaz does not seek to achieve something decorative. His use of color and light, and the accumulation of objects, give his interiors a baroque atmosphere.

Polibio Diaz’s particular approach stems from his desire to dramatize moments from the inhabitants’ daily lives; each image expresses a specific moment, as if Diaz were telling us a story. One finds in this photo a theme that has continuously interested the artist, namely the culture of the Dominican people, which he aims to photograph in their daily lives. "By making blacks and mulattos the subject of my work, I challenge the aesthetic Greco-Latin codes upon which seems to be founded the concept of Dominican beauty."

Some of these "Interiores" were presented at an exhibition at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris in 2009. On this occasion, Polibio Diaz presented his photos in the form of an installation with, in the background, a radio loudly set to AM station, which broadcasted "bachata" style music, which was born in the Dominican Republic. Hence both, the visuals and sound reinforced the evocation of Dominican culture.

Artist Biography

Polibio Diaz is a contemporary artist born in 1952 in Barahona, Dominican Republic. He began studying photography at the Texas A&M University, but finally switched to a career in civil engineering. From 2003 onward he decided to dedicate himself to photography and art. He exhibited his works in Europe, America and Asia, including the Brooklyn Museum in New York in 2007, with the exhibition "Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art" and the Museum of Modern Art in Santo Domingo in 2006 with the first Cultural Festival Cultural for countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific". He also participated in various biennials, where he received several awards, such as the prize at the 5th Pacific Caribbean Biennial in 2003 and the “Climarte” first prize in Havana in 2009. Polibio Diaz has collaborated with writers, such as Julia Alvarez, Junot Díaz and Manuel Rueda, which led to the creation of several books : "Interiors" (2006), "One Island, one landscape" (1998), "Images of Carnival" (1993) and "Scarecrow from the South" (1984).

Today Diaz lives in the Dominican Republic where he spends part of his time teaching photography to children in the poorest neighborhoods. He also teaches at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) in Santo Domingo. Furthermore, he is also ambassador and holds the function of cultural adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic.

Polibio Diaz works on the question of the Dominican peoples’ identity. His art, he says, is "oriented first to my fellow Dominicans, so that we recognize and accept ourselves as we are: the wonderful and complex mixture of several civilizations with their different shades of color reflected and projected in the complexity of our skin and culture." After focusing on the "introspective and static exploration of interiors", Diaz became interested in the Dominican community of New York. It is around this theme that an exhibition was organized at the Naço gallery in Paris in December 2009.

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