Wifredo Lam

29 september, 1992 - 14 december, 1992 /
Sabatini Building, Floor 1
Wifredo Lam. Natividad, 1947. Painting. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, Madrid
Wifredo Lam. Natividad, 1947. Painting. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Collection, Madrid

Breaking with the clichés that have made up the painter Wifredo Lam’s (Sagua la Grande, Cuba, 1902-Paris, 1982) career is one of the purposes of this exhibition. The artistic biography of the painter regarding his Cuban origins, his life in Spain, his direct influence on Picasso's work and his friendship with the surrealist group in Paris and in the United States have left out important elements that serve to provide a more complete reading of Lam. In this way then, this exhibition aims to make this into a debate, which remains throughout the first half of the twentieth century, where modernity confronts the primitive. In the words of art critic Gerardo Mosquera the purpose of this exhibition, consisting of more than seventy pieces has to be a reading of Lam's work "in the context of anticolonial struggles and of the emancipation of the peoples of the Third World". In this way, the aim is to "break dualisms and recognise hybridisations, and “in-authenticities” typical of postcolonial dynamics" he adds.

Lam’s definite artistic personality becomes evident upon his return to Havana around 1940-1941, with an explosion of his training in Madrid onto his canvases. It was in Spain that he meets the independent avant-garde (Iberian Artists Exhibition, 1925) and like Benjamín Palencia, starts on a budding surrealist journal, exemplified by Composición (1931); and his stay in Paris, are then the fundamental axes of his work the meeting with Pablo Picasso and his links with André Breton’s group. From then onwards, the issue of motherhood becomes a dominant theme in his paintings, in which he develops a schematic language, as shown by Madre e Hija, (c.1939) or El beso (1939). From 1942, the value of Lam's paintings, according to Mosquera, is to have taken "a qualitative shift and he begins to base his art on those components of live African origin living in Cuban culture," turning his painting into a kind of primitive-modern cosmogony, a recreation of the world centred on the Caribbean (La jungla, 1942-1944)

While, from a formal point of view, Lam’s paintings continue the pattern of Picasso, Julio González, Henri Matisse and African synthetic geometric; it is in themes and iconography where his most important and radical innovations are seen. In them, ample allusions to a fantastic and mystic bestiary are seen, they are also linked to voodoo and atavistic deities (we can see here the reference to the image of Elegguá), as seen in Manzana-Zombie (1945), El guerrero (1947), Natividad, (1947), Clarividencia (1950), Tótem para la Luna num. 1 (1958), Yo llego (1961), and Perro con dos cabezas (1964). These recent works, created in Paris - where he settles definitively in 1952 - are evidence of an artistic and symbolic union between the European avant-garde and Afro-Cuban expressions that put hierarchies between the centre-periphery into perspective and articulate other art histories.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Lou Laurin Lam and Marta González Orbegozo
Exhibition Tour: 

Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona (January 21 - March 29, 1993); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Monterrey