REINALDO LÓPEZ: An artist shel­tered be­tween draw­ings, ink, color and si­lence


Art On Cuba - - Index - DAVID LÓPEZ XIMENO

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. ƒ

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

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