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The opening was attended by an extraordinary group of art lovers across generations from established masters, such as Manuel Mendive and Carlos Quintana, to art students. It was the glances and subtle gestures that indicated the high esteem in which Cárdenas is held.
The sizes of the works made one feel that space was being invaded, that one’s breath was being concentrated and that there was a sort of thickness present in the air that had to be crossed without being overcome with the emotion elicited by each of the representations. The artist’s skill in handling symbols, in making concrete the distortion of archetypes put him squarely into the realm of poetry. Call it abstraction or metaphor, but what is certain is that it re-dimensions events and bestows upon them a metaphysical depth capable of liberating sensations that are able to flow along individual lines.
“The Forms of Silence” once again allows us to approach one of the great Cuban artists of the second half of the twentieth century. Agustín Cárdenas was trained in the San Alejandro Academy in the 1940s and he has been exhibiting since 1955, the year he traveled to Paris where he lived for around forty years. During this time he traveled and showed on the five continents, creating powerful relationships with some of the main figures in the European avant-garde. Sculpture with a very personal imprint makes him one of the most remarkable sculptors of that era.
The show covers work spanning the period from 1957 to 1989. From El gallo [The Rooster] (1957) to Caballito [Little Horse] (1989) a terrain of deployment and contradictions reveals the evolution of a man enchanted by different cultures. The artist has survived his scrutiny of Caribbean tides and, after ignoring them for a while, returns to die at the foot of their cyclical movement. And so we see how El árbol antillano [The Tree of the West Indies] congeals the wisdom of every branch while becoming one single trunk that keeps its steadfast aim of returning to the earth.
“The Forms of Silence” can also be interpreted as a celebration of substances, a banquet where materials (wood, marble and bronze) accept being sublimated to the codes of demiurgic language. The artist’s diversity of choice in terms of material speaks volumes about his character and expressive capacity. Every material Cárdenas chooses leads to greater communication with his viewers.
His white marble “Homage to Brancusi” (1966) surprisingly symbolizes the universe made erotic by an economy of expressiveness that literally leaves viewers speechless. Smoothness and ascending forms recall the aspirations of that Rumanian sculptor in an audacious manner of approaching the creative posture that for decades inspired sculpture all over the world.
Work seeped in emotion such as Madera calcinada [Charred Wood] (1957), Disco de luz escondida [Hidden Light Disc] (1970), El beso [The Kiss] (1974) and La mano [The Hand] (1965) places us before a remarkable phenomenon that will be available for the viewing during a month at the Wifredo Lam Center for Contemporary Art, just a few blocks from the Cathedral of Havana.
Augustín Cárdenas Known as one of the last Surrealist artist, renowned Cuban sculptor Agustín Cárdenas had an artistic touch that was “as nimble as a dragonfly” (André Breton). Cárdenas, a descendant of slaves from Senegal and the Congo, was born in Matanzas in 1927 and died in Havana in 2001. His work reflects both his adherence to Surrealism and his Afro-Cuban heritage.
Cárdenas was interested in depicting the female form, the intimacy and proximity in human relations in a totem morphology style. Through his life he worked with a variety of materials, including wood, bronze, granite and marble. As an earlier creator of site-specific works, Cárdenas was one of the first artists to create monumental sculptures with minerals native to the site. He is generally considered the precursor of abstract art in sculpture.
May 2014 This article formed part of the may 2014 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.
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