Beloved Cuban sculptor Tony López dies in Miami t 92

Cuban sculptor Tony López, who had a 70-year career between Cuba and Miami, including helping to design the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach, died Sunday of cardiac arrest. López, who would have turned 93 on Sept. 6, was in a recovery center in Southwest Miami where he was being treated for kidney complications, Sarah Moreno reports in The Miami Herald.

Known for his indefatigable vitality and love of his work, the sculptor kept the doors open to his studio on Northwest 36th Street open for everyone who wanted to watch him work while offering his guests the chance to talk about art and history of Cuba, of which he had been an active player in the country’s cultural and public life during its years as a republic.

“Tony was a wonderful person, a friend who never ceased to call you and who always tried to make us laugh,” said art collector Gustavo Orta, who organized and was the curator of the exhibit celebrating the sculptor’s 90th birthday at the gallery at the Miami Dade College Doral Campus.

“I believe I was born with a ball of clay in my hand,” López said in an interview with El Nuevo Herald in September 2008 at the exhibit honoring his 90th birthday. López began his training at the atelier of his father, a Spanish sculptor who was a professor at Rancho Boyeros’ Technical School in the outskirts of Havana, where López continued his training as sculptor. López’s father created the image of Christ at the portal of the Iglesia de la Reina in Havana.

In 1939, López won his first important award, a medal of the Bellas Artes circle with the bust of a union militant. In the next two decades he was known for his “caricature sculptures,” in which he carved images of public and political figures that were later published in the Bohemia magazine.

The most controversial of these was of President Ramón Grau San Martín characterized as a devil.

Persecuted by the government of Fulgencio Batista because of his political views, López came to Miami as an exile in 1958. Here he left his imprint with a statue of Cuban military hero Antonio Maceo and other monuments in Little Havana. He also made the original models of the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach and a sculpture of Cuban anti-Castro fighter Jorge Mas Canosa for a park in Miami Beach.

His rooster figures, inspired by his pet rooster Pepe, on Calle Ocho were very popular.

López also leaves behind the sculpture of a small siren at the entrance to Marco Island and a bust of Latin American military hero Simón Bolívar in front of the Miami Beach Library, as well as one of Pope John Paul II in Angola and one of Cuban scientist Carlos J. Finlay at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

“He was great at drawing and he kept drawing until his last days,” his son Marcos Antonio said. “At the hospital he asked for a board and plastiline to make a model of an apple, one of his favorite themes.”

In addition to Marcos Antonio, López is survived in Miami by another son, Joaquín; and in Cuba, a daughter, Leda.

Funeral services will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Maspons Funeral Home, 3500 SW Eighth St.

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