Cuban Art Cuban Art
Miguel Florido
Catalog Essay: Hopes and Dreams Exhibition, August 2003
Florido: Strokes of Yearning and Hope
Justo J. Sánchez

Florido Storkes of Yearning and Hope

In the Cuban countryside, he learned to draw. He had no access to museums or art books. He received no formal or academic training. With only his youth and sensitivity in tow, he arrived in Madrid. There he found the Baroque. Zurbarán, Murillo, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Velázquez at the Prado and the Thyssen museums had a profound effect on him. The still lifes by Sánchez Cotán as well as the many examples of vanitas paintings exhibited in both institutions made lasting impressions on Miguel Florido.

The still-life genre, in the manner of Sánchez Cotán and the Dutch masters, is present in two of Florido´s series: "Bodies Without Life" and "Blue Door." They are not works undertaken as virtuoso exercises in painterly technique. Florido considers them "self-portraits" or deep explorations of the magic of his environs. Seen this way, they become nationalistic odes as in Aún aguardo tu presencia (2002). A Chastelian (André Chastel) reading would detect in these works the elements of a self-sacrificial altar and ritual.

The notion of vanitas appears in the Florido canon removed from its Judeo-Christian denotation. In a work like La última alegría (2001), the dramatic tension of the fleeting moment --life ephemeral -- is communicated with the same tenebristic intensity of the followers of Caravaggio. There is memento absentia rather than memento moris in the oeuvre of this young artist. In his visual musings, he employs the genre that points to the brevity of pleasure and worldly happiness. Absence prompts the pictorial meditations (La cruz va por dentro, 2001, Aquí esperándote me quedo, 2002) of this Cuban incarnation of Sevillian Renaissance poet Fernando de Herrera.

Claudio Bravo's opus informs the aesthetic vision of Miguel Florido. In the "Papers" series, the Cuban artist takes Bravo's "Packages" as a point of departure, as he does with the "betriegertje" (back of a painting) genre from Dutch Baroque master Cornelius Norbert Gijsbrecht. The young painter infuses his signature lyricism, subtlety, and nostalgia into this new language. "Papers" is an experimental series in which he engages in a serious reflection on absence, separation, and the metaphysics of presence, a topic of vital importance in contemporary philosophical debate.

Miguel Florido is an extraordinary case study in visual culture. Precocious in his wish to explore verisimilitude and illusionism in drawing, far from the boisterous urban setting, he acquires his unique artistic profile after a trip to Madrid. His eurocentric visual discourse destabilizes the established formulas for Cuban art. It connects with the long neglected Hispano-European roots of that country's culture. His vocabulary and his aesthetic, however, are as Cuban as Martí, Avellaneda and Baquero all for whom Madrid was also an important artistic milieu.

And yet, no matter how often Florido visits Zurbarán, Sánchez Cotán, the Dutch, and Claudio Bravo, he is never derivative. His voice is powerful, his language very much his own. His meditations and poetry are as delicate as the orchid in Sólo Tú (2003). Isolated in the Cuban countryside, Miguel Florido whispers through his canvases strokes of yearning, pain, desire, dreams, love, and hope.

Justo J. Sánchez

JUSTO J. SANCHEZ (Havana, Cuba), a graduate of Harvard University, has done advanced studies at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. He teaches Art History a the New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida, and is also the Executive Editor of both Gables and Six Continents magazines.

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