High Museum of Art Mounts Retrospective of Renowned 20th Century Artist Wifredo Lam
February 10, 2015
Presented in conjunction with exhibitions by leading contemporary American artists José Parlá and Fahamu Pecou
ATLANTA, Feb. 10, 2015 – The High Museum of Art presents a retrospective of work by Wifredo Lam, a preeminent artist of Latin American origin and one of the Surrealist movement’s most influential figures, from Feb. 14 through May 24, 2015.“Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds” features more than 40 paintings and a selection of drawings, prints and ephemera by the internationally renowned, Cuban-born artist. Many of Lam’s masterworks—drawn from public and private collections across Europe, Latin America and the U.S.—are presented together for the first time in the exhibition, which offers a rare overview and reexamination of the artist’s career. The exhibition is organized by the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College.
In conjunction with “Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds,” the High will present two solo exhibitions by leading contemporary American artists José Parlá and Fahamu Pecou. In their concurrent exhibitions, Brooklyn-based Parlá and Atlanta-based Pecou will respond to the work of Lam, providing contemporary perspectives on his life and career.
The Lam, Parlá and Pecou exhibitions all feature bi-lingual wall texts, in both English and Spanish.
About “Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds”
“Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds” sheds light on Lam’s seminal periods of artistic development, tracing the global path of his career from its academic roots in Madrid to Lam’s pivotal stay in pre-war Paris and his return to Cuba in the early 1940s. The works reveal the many important influences on Lam’s career, from the European literary and artistic avant-garde to African art.
“It is a tremendous opportunity for the High to share the story of Wifredo Lam’s prolific career with our audiences and connect them with dozens of the artist’s most exceptional works,” said Michael Rooks, Wieland Family curator of modern and contemporary art at the High. “In spite of the fact that Lam is one of the most influential artists of the latter half of the 20th century, his work is rarely displayed in North America—and for that reason he is known primarily among artists, curators, scholars and collectors. This exhibition will be a revelation for audiences and will help cultivate a broader understanding of the importance of Latin America, and cross-cultural influences, in the history of modern art.”
Born in Cuba to a Chinese father and a mother of African and Spanish descent, Lam (1902-82) gave expression to his multiracial and cultural ancestry while engaging with the major political, literary and artistic circles whose work came to define modernism in the 20th century. In 1938, Lam moved to Paris, where he absorbed the tenets of European modernism, became an important artist of the 1940s Surrealist group, and was introduced to such influential figures as Pablo Picasso and André Breton.
The impact of Lam’s interactions with artists, poets and philosophers on his work is a central theme of “Imagining New Worlds,” which examines the influence of such pioneering figures as Picasso, Breton, Federico García Lorca, Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez and Aimé Césaire.
The exhibition will also consider how the Négritude movement shaped Lam’s work. Lam discovered the literary and ideological movement during his time in Haiti through his relationship with Césaire, the Francophone writer from Martinique whose book of poetry “The Native Land” was published in Spanish translation (“Retorno al pais natal”) in 1943 with illustrations by Lam. Césaire was one of the founders of the movement, which focuses on a black identity that rejects French colonialism.
Returning to Havana in 1941, Lam arrived at his signature hybrid style of painting: a blend of surrealism, magic realism, modernism and postmodernism characterized by a cross-cultural fusion of influences including Afro-Cuban symbolism and imagery related to the Santería religion practiced in the Caribbean.
Significant works featured in the exhibition include:
- “Anamu” (1942) – one of the earliest examples in the exhibition of Lam’s use of hybrid imagery
- “Le Sombre Malembo, Dieu du carrefour” (1943) – embodies Lam’s quintessential style combining Afro-Cuban-inspired imagery and themes related to the tropical landscape of Cuba
- “Femme‑Cheval” (1948) – depicts a recurring theme in Lam’s work, a hybrid woman-horse personage, which also underscores the influence of Picasso
- “Près des Îles Vierges” (1959) – an example of Lam’s painting on a grand scale, which approaches a greater degree of abstraction than in his earlier work
- “Grande Composition” (1960) – a late, monumental work that summarizes the fundamental innovations in Lam’s career
The exhibition is curated by Elizabeth T. Goizueta, adjunct curator, McMullen Museum of Art and lecturer in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Boston College. Rooks is the managing curator of the High’s presentation.
To accompany the exhibition, the McMullen Museum of Art published a scholarly catalogue with contributions by experts in a range of disciplines from the universities of Boston College, including Elizabeth Goizueta, Fine Arts Department Professor and Chair Claude Cernuschi, and Theology Department Flatley Professor Roberto S. Goizueta. Other contributors include Roberto Cobas Amate, curator of Cuban “Vanguardia” art at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba, and Lowery Stokes Sims of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York.
About “Imagining New Worlds: José Parlá and Fahamu Pecou”
In their concurrent exhibitions, Parlá and Pecou examine Lam’s artistic legacy through works that explore their own personal reflections on the artist’s involvement with the Surrealist and Négritude movements, his fusion of African-inspired imagery with that of the natural world, and the influence of the Santeria religion on Lam’s artistic approach.
Presented in galleries adjacent to the Lam retrospective, the exhibitions feature mostly new work by the artists and include paintings and sculpture, murals, and sound elements. Parlá and Pecou have also collaborated on an installation in a third space. Conceived as an “altar to the imagination,” the installation examines the boundlessness of imagination, a theme explored across all three presentations, and further investigates the influence of Santeria on Lam’s work as well as the religion’s impact on the artistic practice and personal lives of Parlá and Pecou.
Exhibition Organization and Support
“Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds” is organized by the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College. Support for this exhibition is provided by The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, Northern Trust and Turner Voices. Additional support provided by Sandra and Dan Baldwin, Jiong Yan and Baxter Jones, Elizabeth and Chris Willet, and Morgens West Foundation.
About the High Museum of Art
The High is the leading art museum in the Southeastern U.S. With more than 14,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American and decorative art; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography, folk art and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists. For more information about the High, visit stage.high.org.
About The Woodruff Arts Center
The Woodruff Arts Center is one of the largest arts centers in the world, home to the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art and Arts for Learning. Each year, these arts organizations play host to over 1.2 million patrons at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Midtown Atlanta location, one of the only arts centers in the U.S. to host both visual and performing arts on a single campus. Through its work with educators and schools, the Woodruff Arts Center serves over 300,000 students annually and is the largest arts educator in Georgia.
About the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College
The McMullen Museum is renowned for organizing interdisciplinary exhibitions that ask new questions and break new ground in the display and scholarship of the works on view. It serves as a dynamic educational resource for all of New England as well as the national and international community. The Museum mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, the Museum’s exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public programs. The McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 by the late BC benefactor, trustee, and art collector John J. McMullen and his wife Jacqueline McMullen.
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