Che's Afterlife

From Photo to Pop Icon

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1a-guerrillero-heroico

 
The original photo by Alberto Korda, March 5, 1960, showing the profile of Argentine journalist Jorge Massetti to the left and the fronds of a Cuban palm tree to the right. © Estate of Alberto Korda

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1b-guerrillero-heroico
…Cropped by Korda, the image loses it historical and geographical markers, and becomes El Guerrillero Heroico. © Estate of Alberto Korda

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1c-fitzpatrick-68-f 
…In 1968, Jim Fitzpatrick traces the outline of Korda’s photo. Image courtesy of the artist; © Jim Fitzpatrick, 1968

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1d-fitzpatrick-red1
…Later, in various colored forms but especially in red, Fitzpatrick’s image becomes a hit among protesters in Paris and other hot spots of resistance in the late 1960s. © Jim Fitzpatrick, 1968

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1e-warholche

…Fitzpatrick’s image becomes the template for countless other knockoffs, including “The Warhol Che”. But Andy did not make this commonly reproduced image. No one knows who did it.

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1f-martinez-fenix-low-res

…Cuban artists took to the image with abandon, cranking out Che pop art posters. Whether intentional or not, it’s an association that links Che, the armed warrior, with the freewheeling, free-love spirit of the hippy peace movement. Painting by Raúl Martínez. Collection of El Museo Nacional de Bella Artes, Havana. Image courtesy of the Center for Cuban Studies, New York

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1g-r-martinez-painting
…Also by Raúl Martínez, this one typifies many artists’ fixation on different elements of Korda’s image, in this case El Comandante’s star on his beret. Collection of El Museo Nacional de Bella Artes, Havana. Image courtesy of David Kunzle.

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1h-tamayo-la-cabana
…Or, in this one, the focus is on Che’s hair, a classic 60s symbol of freedom. La Boina del Che (Che’s Beret), Rubén Alpizar and Reinerio Tamayo. Image reproduced courtesy of the artists. Photo by Michael Casey

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1i-davis-evergreen

Artist Paul Davis produced what is thought to be the first reproduction of the image in the United States, in this case for the cover of the political journal Evergreen. Its mimicry of Italian Christian art marks the beginning of another strain of Che art, that which deifies him. Image courtesy of the artist; © Paul Davis

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1j-der-spiegel
…A later example: this 1996 cover of German magazine, Der Spiegel. Image courtesy of David Kunzle.

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1k-meek-mild
…Or for another twist, there’s this reversal of the same idea – comparing Christ to Che – in a U.K. church advertising campaign poster. Image courtesy of The Churches Advertising Network.

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1m-soupcan
…And as the idealized myth of Che becomes distant from the daily reality of a country that is communist in name but which is, for better or worse, increasingly integrated into the global capitalist economy, Cuban artists can’t resist using the image as a commentary on that society. This riff on Warhol and government propaganda is by Cuban Alfredo Manzo Cedeño. From Michael Casey’s personal collection.

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