REINALDO LÓPEZ: An artist sheltered between drawings, ink, color and silence
COLOR AND SILENCE
In a radio interview in August 2017, I confessed that one of the greatest and most beautiful experiences in my life was growing watching my father painting. Reinaldo López (1934–2014), was born on October 28 in Simpson heights, a popular neighborhood in Matanzas, the Athens of Cuba, where different cultural manifestations like rumba, danzón, abakuá ceremonies and other syncretic forms of worship coexisted, together with other traditional processions of the Virgen de Montserrat. His work drew inspiration from this polychrome, sonorous, magic and performative universe. My father owed all his passion for drawings to his father, Bienvenido López.
Among the anecdotes from his childhood that contributed to his passion for painting he spoke of the discovery of a character like the painter Fidelio Ponce de León, who lived for a while in an old house in Santa Teresa Street, next to my father's family home. As a teenager, my father enrolled in painting and drawing at the Alberto Tarascó Provincial Fine Arts School. He took lessons there with outstanding artists like the maestro Roberto Diago Querol, with whom he shared a deep friendship. Diago and his wife Josefina Urfé became an indispensable part of his life, they trained him in the appraisal of fine arts and encouraged him to draw, read about Lam, Picasso and cubism, and to study the artistic avant-garde from Europe and North America. The master invited him to share long days of study, enjoying delicious rice with fish or seafood, which Diago enjoyed cooking.
He was part of the 1953 graduation. After graduating, he embarked on a rising career with his first exhibition in Galerías de Matanzas, together with artists Juan Blanco López, José R. Fundora and Agustín Drake, inaugurated on September 6, 1953. After this exhibition, he displayed some pieces in Salon de la Rampa,
on May 5, 1954, with favorable reviews in El Mundo newspaper. During the 1950s, he worked preparing exhibitions and decorating private facilities, among which the mural for the Matanzas Optician Store, no longer existing today stood out. A great number of experiences characterized this stage that led him to a swift rupture with the academic canon emphasizing very intense lines, demonstrating the great influence of his up to then maestro Roberto Diago.
He settled in Havana during the 1960s. His work appeared in many solo exhibitions and in cultural events. He participated in the foundation of UNEAC, and in 1967 when the Salon de Mayo was celebrated in Havana, he was among the 100 artists who painted the mural Cuba Colectiva, today treasured by the MNBA. The 1960s were of crucial importance for the artist, since in that period he consolidated his abstract language, creating mixed technique pieces, where ink and color complement each other. In 1965 he made Tres Mujeres, expressing his tendency to mix figurative and abstract elements with a very peculiar symbolism. Closing the decade, we find his elegant series of female drawings in 1968, namely Retrato de Ñica, as part of the MNBA's collection.
The piece entitled Mujer con Rinoceronte was a turning point that opened the decade of the 1970s, female images and animals came together for the first time, as a preamble to the apotheosis of movement, ink and colorful wash drawings of the renowned series Animalia. Regarding this work, the Cuban arts curator Máximo Gómez Noda, who recently organized an exhibition for Galería Once, an institution of the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Men, has stated: The microcosms of Lopez's aesthetic vision are substantial and essential, because he assumes the voices of ancestors and the vital force of Nature and Man. In the diversity of his visual discourse, there is a continuous presence of an animistic and mystic sense of Nature, evoking realities rather than describing them.1
As a specialist of the group lead by the architect Mario Girona Fernández, part of his work consisted of the architectonic design of interiors, exteriors and landscape gardening, bequeathing the patrimony of the country emblematic works like the Pradera Africana (African Grasslands) located in the National Zoo, and the landscape design for Parque Lenin and Cayo Coco, among other projects. His extensive mural work such as Canto a las Antillas decorates public buildings, a mural using white and blue ceramics, located in Tritón Hotel; his mural Los Galápagos, with a charcoal painting of galloping horses, is located in a restaurant in Parque Lenin, in Havana.
At present, his family treasures an important number of his paintings and engravings, representative of his extensive artistic career.
Estructuras (Structures), 2006 Acrylic on canvas
30¾ x 43¼ in
La Jungla Humana (The human jungle), 2004 Acrylic on canvas
19½ x 57¾ in
Photos: Maité Fernández