Arturo Montoto, Cuban Artist

In “From Comics to Canvas: A Hedonist’s Jump,” Alberto Dolz writes about Cuban painter Arturo Montoto (Pinar del Río, 1953). Dolz says, “People who attend his exhibits feel different after they see them. They are caught by a world of senses that transforms them.”

An outstanding personality of Cuban contemporary art, Montoto graduated from the National School of Art in Havana and went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts, specializing in mural painting, at State Institute V. I. Súrikov in Moscow. He has taught at the Superior Institute of Art and is a member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC). Montoto funds a small cultural center in Guanabacoa, the birthplace of such internationally renowned musicians as Rita Montaner, Bola de Nieve, and Ernesto Lecuona. With around 30 solo and more than 80 group exhibitions, the artist’s work has been shown in numerous countries in the Caribbean, Europe, and North and South America.

In an interview with Dolz, the artist—engraver, sculptor, photographer, draftsman, muralist, professor, and “above all” painter—says that his predilection for drawing comic books, which he created and recreated with different characters somehow paved the way for the artist he would later become. Admitting that in his youth he “wanted nothing to do with painting;” however, he says that someone took the time to explain to him “what plastic arts were all about and convinced [me],” for which he will be forever grateful.

He tells about his childhood and how his environment marked him: “I was born in the outskirts of Pinar del Río. If I moved to the right, it was all countryside, and to the left, the city. I grew up in a huge farm with all sorts of fruit.” And “Fruit,” says Dolz, “has been the symbol and ambrosia of his creation.” Montoto explains, “I want people to focus on one of the main issues of my work: the sense of delight. What I have done is to boost hedonism. [. . .] I usually put the environment’s aggressiveness upfront. I set off that nostalgia and dark colors before the desire to taste that fruit. I chose that element because I thought it was the most lascivious one, the most voluptuous one, the one that evokes women’s nature in contrast with a male environment.” Montoto also claims Wilfredo Lam as his biggest Cuban influence, although it may not be apparent in his work.

In the past, the artist has described his work as a “result of an inquiry in the environment of the pictorial visuality of post-Renaissance inheritance, modeled by the resources of representation in western tradition.” He is interested in the way the “historical Baroque deploys its theater and it converges with that silent area that the Italian metaphysicians conserve from their predecessors of the end of the Middle Ages.” Montoto is fascinated by “the event detained in time and the unconcluded narrative, [which point to] a space where the shadows converge, marked by light, and they point out an object without transcendence, frugal and simple, unusual and strange, but also with hedonism and at times irony.”

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