The influence of Mondrian reaching Cuba

I had a chance to view the exhibition Adiós Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950 at the Walker Art Center today, and it was a fascinating look at over 100 works spanning 65 years of Cuban art.

One of the things I found interesting in the selection of artists for the show is that although many artists have emigrated from Cuba over the years, this exhibition features those who remained in Cuba and whose careers emerged or who were educated on the island after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

I could easily pick 15-20 works from the exhibition that caught my attention, but figured I’d start with this piece by Sandú Darié, titled “Estructura picórica (Pictorial Structure),” circa 1950 (full image at left, detail view at right). It seemed pretty obvious to me that there is a strong Mondrian influence here, but then I wondered how a Cuban artist living isolated in Castro’s Cuba would have been aware of Mondrian’s work? I found some potential answers which I share below …

Cuban artist Sandu Darie painting at Walker Art Center

The artist, Sandú Darié, was actually born in Romania in 1908, and lived in Paris for part of the 1930s before moving to Cuba in 1941, where he settled in Havanna. Mondrian, who lived in the Netherlands, Paris, and New York over his lifetime, would have overlapped with Darié in Paris in the late 1930s, so they would have likely encountered each other’s work at some point there. So in the end, I guess it’s not such a mystery that Mondrian’s influence would reach Cuba, since it was brought there by a European. At any rate, I love this piece as it brings a 3-D element to Mondrian’s style.

The exhibition at the Walker is up through March 18th, 2018.

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