Art On Cuba - - Index - Hortensia Mon­tero

Rafael So­ri­ano López (Novem­ber 23, 1920, Cidra, Matan­zas, Cuba – April 9, 2015, Mi­ami,USA) grad­u­ated from the San Ale­jan­dro Na­tional School of Fine Arts, Ha­vana, in 1941, and founded, to­gether with Manuel Ro­dulfo Tardo, José Felipe Núñez, Juan Es­nard and Roberto Di­ago, the Pro­vin­cial School of Fine Arts in Matan­zas city, work­ing there as a pro­fes­sor and prin­ci­pal be­tween 1943 and 1962.

So­ri­ano was a mem­ber of the 10 Pin­tores Con­cre­tos (1958 – 1961)(ten con­crete painters), along­side Carmelo Ál­varez, Wifredo Ar­cay, Sal­vador Cor­ratgé, Sandu Darie, Luis Martínez Pe­dro, José Mi­jares, Pe­dro de Oráa, Dolores Sold­ev­illa, Rafael So­ri­ano, Al­berto Meno­cal and José Ros­a­bal, a gen­er­a­tion that ex­pressed the iden­tity and the di­ver­sity of the na­tional artis­tic avant-garde, sup­ported by art critic Joaquín Tex­i­dor.

Also part of the third mod­ernist gen­er­a­tion of artists in the visual arts, he took to the geo­met­ric ab­strac­tion of 1950s Cuba, known as the Golden Age, and he worked the lyric land­scape and the ge­om­e­try typ­i­cal of the con­crete painters. Like­wise, he made in­cur­sions into ab­strac­tion­ism with an orig­i­nal think­ing: geo­met­ric el­e­ments, sub re­al­is­tic lu­mi­nos­ity, and a con­struc­tivist dy­namic, and he was one of the main rep­re­sen­ta­tives of con­crete art in Cuba and Latin Amer­ica.

In 1961, in times of ex­treme con­tin­gen­cies, un­der the phrase “With the rev­o­lu­tion, ev­ery­thing. Against the rev­o­lu­tion: noth­ing” a cul­tural prin­ci­ple that scorned the art of ab­stract painters, he felt de­stroyed as an artist. Dis­ap­pointed, forced into os­tracism, he trav­eled to Mi­ami in 1962. He worked as a graphic de­signer. An­guished and in ex­ile with no in­spi­ra­tion, his feel­ing of hav­ing been up­rooted and the need to sur­vive hin­dered his paint­ing for years.

He over­came de­pres­sion and ex­pe­ri­enced a spir­i­tual awak­en­ing: he started paint­ing and achieved a new creative stage based on his Chris­tian­ity, a fruit­ful and fas­ci­nat­ing pe­riod. So­ri­ano worked as an Arts pro­fes­sor in the Catholic Of­fice of Wel­fare, and taught De­sign and Com­po­si­tion in the Cuban Cul­tural Pro­gram, at the Univer­sity of Mi­ami (1967 – 1970).

So­ri­ano's work thus saw a turn­ing point that changed his life. He cre­ated in­cred­i­ble shapes, ab­stract ex­pres­sions of emo­tions, sen­sa­tions, med­i­ta­tions and mys­tic el­e­ments, with a new treat­ment of lights and col­ors, us­ing trans­par­ent parts, and spe­cific shapes that placed his works in a new artis­tic di­men­sion. With his re­fined tech­nique as a mas­ter of lu­mi­nos­ity, he in­tro­duces the pic­to­rial metaphor, sup­ported by the meta­phys­i­cal dis­course of shapes in as­ton­ish­ing and com­plex im­ages, where light acts as form and con­tent in the com­po­si­tion.

With more than 50 solo and col­lec­tive exhibitions, in mu­se­ums in the United States and Latin Amer­ica, his visual rep­re­sen­ta­tion is a tran­scen­den­tal con­tri­bu­tion to con­tem­po­rary visual dis­course.

“Rafael So­ri­ano: “The artist as a mys­tic” is his great­est retrospective ex­hi­bi­tion, char­ac­ter­ized by a geo­met­ric and sur­re­al­ist world, pre­sent­ing as well some per­sonal ob­jects.

Held at the Pa­tri­cia & Phillip Frost Art Mu­seum, at Florida In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity, Mi­ami, (Oc­to­ber 28, 2017 – Jan­uary 28, 2018), it was or­ga­nized by the McMullen Mu­seum of Art/ Bos­ton Col­lege, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Rafael So­ri­ano Foun­da­tion. Cu­rated by Elizabeth Thomp­son Goizueta, it in­cludes more than 90 pieces, in­clud­ing paint­ings, pas­tel draw­ings, and draw­ings from the fam­ily's col­lec­tion, from in­sti­tu­tions and pri­vate col­lec­tions. The ex­hi­bi­tion ex­am­ines his es­thetic con­cerns since his first works of geo­met­ric ab­strac­tion, with acute an­gles and lines de­fined in a lyric land­scape, in­flu­enced by the geo­met­ric el­e­ments and lu­mi­nos­ity as a con­cept with cir­cles, squares, tri­an­gles and straight lines, with in­tense col­ors, typ­i­cal of the style he used while liv­ing in Cuba. The ex­hi­bi­tion con­tin­ues with his tran­si­tion paint­ings, ex­per­i­men­tal works cre­ated be­tween 1960 and 1970, which show his pref­er­ence for the sur­re­al­ist style, with soft out­lines in an al­most monochro­matic pal­ette.

It con­cludes with lu­mi­nous im­ages from his mys­tic stage, as a de­vout fol­lower of God. The ma­ture pe­riod in his cre­ations is dom­i­nated by the spir­i­tu­al­ity, mas­ter­fully ex­pressed, em­blem­atic of his divine con­nec­tion with the spir­i­tual, the most sub­lime of his con­cep­tion. Fully evolved as an artist, he leads us to the Latin Amer­i­can orig­i­nal trend of Oneiric Lu­mimism. Be­tween 1980–2000, he in­ter­min­gled oneiric/spir­i­tual ab­strac­tion with sur­re­al­ism; com­bin­ing light and shade. He shows his in­te­rior world and con­veys his ideas from the in­ti­macy of light as mat­ter with the so­bri­ety of vol­ume. Some of his works are soft and serene, oth­ers show the im­pe­tus of an ex­cited mind, ex­pressed in the ab­stract and for­mal val­ues, non–ref­er­en­tial and phys­i­cal, with lights, shades, mat­ter and the power of the un­con­scious, that in­vite one to en­joy the po­etry in his work.

De­spite the dif­fer­ences in his creative pe­ri­ods, there is a com­mon thread in his style, ex­pressed in the magic of his con­cep­tion and fo­cused in a per­fect ge­om­e­try, re­vealed in the po­etic forms of his last pe­riod.

In his artis­tic evo­lu­tion, he re-for­mu­lates him­self. We find a somber il­lu­mi­na­tion in his paint­ings from the 1970s, and dark­ness be­comes a con­stant. Dur­ing the 1990s, deep blacks, dark pur­ples and indigo ap­pear, his fig­u­ra­tive shapes are pale, slen­der, bi­morph shapes and curves re­mind us of a space be­tween worlds. Vis­ually, we can see the bright­ness of the bod­ies, the faces and the melt­ing of aquatic zones; the shapes be­come ex­otic, re­flect­ing spir­i­tu­al­ity in the 1990s.

With his skill­ful use of light, color and depth in paint­ings, he cre­ates un­be­liev­able shapes in ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ism, based on emo­tions, sen­sa­tions and med­i­ta­tions, im­bued with deep mys­ti­cal in­tro­spec­tion. With the new treat­ment of light and color in his trans­par­ent ar­eas and po­etic shapes, he adopts dif­fer­ent ways to as­sume re­al­ity. His po­etic dis­course places his artis­tic ex­pres­sion in a new di­men­sion by cre­at­ing com­po­si­tions where the es­thetic ex­pres­sion flows with a re­fined tech­nique, mak­ing him a mas­ter of lu­mi­nos­ity and shape sen­su­al­ity. He pro­poses an in­ner en­ergy of mem­o­ries and iden­ti­ties that ex­press the hu­man im­pact of pol­i­tics, cul­ture and eco­nomics, as an ex­is­ten­tial res­o­nance of life. A spir­i­tual and mys­tic paint­ing, an ex­pres­sion of sad­ness and nos­tal­gia, that speaks about the de­light, the ex­al­ta­tion of beauty, visual lux­ury and the an­guish of obliv­ion, marked by po­etry and a spir­i­tual di­men­sion where the in­ti­mate and the cos­mic co­in­cide.

Since his first ex­hi­bi­tion in the Ha­vana Lyceum and Lawn Ten­nis Club in 1947, his work has been dis­played in dozens of solo and col­lec­tive exhibitions in mu­se­ums and gal­leries in the United States and Latin Amer­ica. His work is part of a con­sid­er­able num­ber of in­sti­tu­tional and pri­vate col­lec­tions.

Con­sid­ered one of the most sig­nif­i­cant Cuban painters, Rafael So­ri­ano is like­wise in­cluded in the group of out­stand­ing Latin Amer­i­can artists of his day. ƒ

La noche, 1970 Oil on can­vas 40 x 50 in

Rafael So­rian at his house in Matan­zas, Cuba, 1946

In the back­ground, Flor a con­traluz, 1943 / Oil on wood / 6 x 4 ft

Gen­eral view of the ex­hi­bi­tion, McMullen Mu­seum,Bos­ton

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