THE INTIMATE NATURE OF LIGHTS
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.
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