Review of “Wifredo Lam en Cuenca (1925-1927)”

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[Many thanks to Teo Freytes (MSA Experimental) for bringing this item to our attention.] I was very sad to hear that we missed this fascinating exhibition—“Wifredo Lam en Cuenca (1925-1927)”—which was on view until May 19 at Piero Atchugarry Gallery (5520 NE 4th Avenue) in Miami. In any case, I enjoyed reading the review of the exhibition by art critic, historian, and curator Raisa Clavijo. Here are translated excerpts of her review, published in El Nuevo Herald:

The formative years of a great artist are fascinating periods for collectors and art historians. These are years that produce pieces that bring light to the different elements that make up the language of a creator. Piero Atchugarry Gallery, in Little River, is presenting a very unique exhibition until mid-May. It is a set of paintings dating from the period between 1925 and 1927, in which Wifredo Lam (Cuba, 1902-1982) spent seasons in the Castilian town of Cuenca.

Lam had arrived in Spain in 1923, specifically in Madrid. What he calculated would be a short stay, on the way to Paris, lasted for 15 years. He had won a scholarship to study in Europe thanks to the first recognition of his work in his native country. He brought with him a letter of recommendation from Antonio Rodríguez Morey, who at theb time was director of the Museum of Fine Arts of Havana, which would open for him the doors of Madrid’s intellectual circles.

During the first years in Madrid he attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, specifically the classes of Fernando Álvarez de Sotomayor, director of the Prado Museum and a renowned portraitist. However, Lam was not satisfied with the academic training and classical idealism endorsed there. For this reason, he decided to enroll in the Free Art Academy that Julio Moisés had founded, where he came into contact with the new ideas and trends of modern art. Among the students were also Benjamín Palencia, José Moreno Villa, and Salvador Dalí, among other students who would later stand out as avant-garde artists.

Lam completed this training with frequent visits to the Archaeological Museum and the Prado Museum. In the former, he discovered prehistoric art, and in the latter, he studied the works of Velásquez, El Greco, Goya, as well as those of Bosch and Brueghel the Elder. Lam carefully copied many of these masterpieces and sent works to Cuba to justify the stipend he received. Thus, he began to reflect on the relationship between Western art and so-called primitive art, which would later constitute the backbone of the work by which he would be recognized as a universal master.  [. . .]

When in 1925, Gerardo Machado became the president of Cuba, Lam lost his scholarship and he began going through a difficult period of shortages and hardships. In the summer of that year, his friend Rodríguez Muñoz invited him to spend a season with his family in Cuenca. This medieval city, between mountains, aroused Lam’s sensibility and, with its austerity, it provoked in him with the memory of the exuberance of colors, sounds, and beliefs of his land. [. . .]

In order to obtain some money that would give him a certain degree of financial independence, he painted portraits, as well as landscapes, portraits of picturesque characters, and capricious scenes, some of which we can appreciate through this opportunity in the Piero Atchugarry Gallery.

In this set of works, we see a young Lam who eagerly absorbs and experiments with the avant-garde pictorial tendencies in vogue at that time: post-impressionism, expressionism in the use of colors, and freedom of forms, symbolism, as well as realism for the portraits where the experienced eye sees the influence of the time spent with Julio Moisés. [. . .]

[Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. See original review at]

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