Surrealists aimed to release the unconscious mind—suppressed, they believed, by the rational—in order to achieve another reality. Wifredo Lam was attempting to reach the outside world and alert them to the poor conditions that the blacks were living in. These sketches evolve from fairly natural forms toward abstractions, with many experiments in position and arrangement in the progression, as one can see in the two sheets of sketches reproduced on page 42. This work of art displays a message to its observers, and it is a powerful one. Spectators insist on attributing to his pictures subjective content, which they then describe variously as phallic, religious or even anthropological.
He first left it as a young man to live and study in Madrid where he lost everything in the Spanish Civil War and in Paris. Picasso introduces him to the merchant Pierre Loeb who exhibits his paintings. This shows that this statement may be one of the reasons why her work is based on violence against women. He died on September 11, 1982 in Paris, France at the age of 79. More than fifteen years earlier, when Wifredo Lam painted The Jungle 1943 , Cuba had already spent over four decades at the mercy of United States-interests. Even with the new receptivity to art from outside the Western mainstream, there has been a strange silence over an artist seen variously as the Cuban Picasso and the Afro-Caribbean.
He fought in the Spanish Civil War, spent time in Paris where he befriended Picasso , hung out with refugee in unoccupied southern France, and made paintings responding to the darkness and brutality of the Holocaust and Hiroshima. Anyone with even the vaguest interest in modern art will leave this exhibition feeling thoroughly bewitched. Yet he remains an oddly elusive character. In one of his most famous paintings, The Jungle 1943 , these various influences are melded together, onto a single large-scale canvas. This series brought him beyond the influence of the French atelier into a style of painting, that, while bearing strong superficial resemblance to Picasso, has nevertheless become violently personal.
He works with one color at a time in a spurt of passion until he has put it everywhere he wants it. From the floor, littered with uncovered tin cans Nescafe, Carnation milk or Libby vegetables that hold leftover bits of colors, he chooses one, pours some turpentine into the nearly-dry paint to give it the thinness he prefers, selects a large, stiff brush and starts. Although he makes a highly conscious mental approach to his subject, the end result, however abstract, carries a unique emotional impact. Suddenly, he pours the contents of several cans together, concocts a dark olive-green and re-does the whole background, giving it a fourth complete coat. That was the way my father thought.
Wifredo Lam in North America. He dips his brush in it, tests the color with a few strokes. It is easy for the observer to understand this psychic state that Lam was attempting to portray. Ultimately, however, inescapably and perhaps most important to the artist and beholder, here is a bold composition of beautifully balanced shapes, the stimulus of uncalculated colors. It seeks to play off of our unconscious thoughts in relation to the African masks, the scissors and the strangely distorted body parts.
During these six weeks of uncertainty and terror, Lam, left alone, filled a notebook with grotesques—eloquent contour drawings that, echoing his early origins, reverted to the use of African animal symbols. My attraction was one that was purely aesthetic, as if I had seen a beautiful woman. He hates to be interrupted—especially in the middle of a color—which is why he likes to paint at night. My intention was to communicate a psychic state. It is by no means a copy of any of his sketches; they become merely points of departure or notes for the actual painting.
The flat blue tones and heavy black ironwork of the balcony visible in The Window, I 1935 , for instance, are singularly Matissean devices. Middle Regardless of the significance of the sugarcane plants, it helps to create a feeling of a very small, cramped space. Cuba celebrates national funerals in the month of December of that same year. He dies on September 11, 1982. He fills two or three small pieces of any paper that falls to hand with numerous meticulous drawings that have a Chinese delicacy of design. New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1993. The artist haphazardly constructs the figures from a collection of distinct forms—crescent-shaped faces; prominent, rounded backsides; willowy arms and legs; and flat, cloddish hands and feet.
The fact is that, more positively than many of his fellow-abstractionists, Lam evokes unequivocal emotions, but everything else be as it may, Lam utilizes his symbols as units in the interest in design. Working with darting frenzy, he looks around, settles on a lavender color in another can, liquifies it with turpentine and begins painting the second largest mass or the stylized shadow of the figure. Lam is one of the most fascinating figures in the history of modern painting. He paints nervously and rapidly, swept up by activity, assailed all the while by fear and doubt. About ten years ago, Lam married Helena, lived with her in Paris until she was interned by the Germans shortly thereafter.
For The Horse which we shall call this still-untitled picture he decided on pale green and applied the watery paint with swift, sure vertical and horizontal strokes over the background, which he fills in first, covering it with a light, almost transparent coat. The Jungle is a huge painting with an extremely intricate, complex composition. It also seems that this scene is in the moonlight, or a scarcely lit area. It was his intention to bring these issues to the rest of the world, who were unaware of the poor social status of African descendants in Cuba. It is the undertaking of this essay to explore this renowned work of art, and to discover the intent of Lam's symbols and subtleties. Well known on the continent, where he spent many years during a peripatetic career, he remains inexplicably neglected in this country.