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The


ART


of Rafael Soriano By Deborah Charnes


Rafael Soriano was born in 1920 in Matanzas, Cuba. He fled the island with his wife and daughter in 1962. The family settled in Miami, and he was forced to temporarily take a respite from his artwork. When he returned to his artwork, Soriano began to combine abstract forms of light, space and shadows with metaphysical images. He has exhibited widely in the Americas and in Europe and is included in a myriad of museum collections.


Candor of Dawn by Rafael Soriano


“These important paintings by Rafael Soriano are excellent additions to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collec- tion,” said Dr. E. Carmen Ramos, curator of Latino art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “While the museum’s collection includes important works by Cuban American art- ists—especially those that were educated in the United States like Ana Mendieta and Maria Brito—these Soriano acquisitions allow us to capture the perspective of the first generation of Cuban exiles who arrived as adults with significant careers in Cuba already under their belt.”


A founder and early director of the School of Fine Arts in his native Matanzas, Soriano was a committed member of the communal life of his city. A member of the third Cuban avant- garde, Soriano’s early work in Cuba was a manifestation of geometric abstraction. Throughout the 1950s, he exhibited and was associated with the Pintores Concretos group of art- ists that introduced geometric and concrete abstraction in Cuba.


This summer two major paintings by Cuban master Rafael Soriano were given to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for its permanent collection. These two works, Un Lugar Dis- tante (A Distant Place) (1972) and Candor de la Alborada (Candor of Dawn) (1994), represent significant moments in Soriano’s artistic production.


“Rafael Soriano has been called one of the major Latin Ameri- can artists of his generation, and one of the premier painters of Cuba,” said Milagros Soriano, who donated the celebrated canvases to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “So it was fitting that his artwork be represented at our country’s leading art institution.”


Soriano’s art experienced an extraordinary transformation along with his personal life as a Cuban exile. Soriano devel- oped rectilinear, angular compositions endowed with strong, flat colors and forms that gave way to organic ones, and color became simultaneously deep and diaphanous. Soriano trans- forms abstraction into a visual space where forms express metaphysical and spiritual concerns, not unlike those found in the works of his fellow Americans Mark Rothko and William Baziotes. Un Lugar Distante and Candor de la Alborada are excellent examples of these shifts and resolutions.


Un Lugar Distante will be featured in the Smithsonian Ameri- can Art Museum’s forthcoming exhibition Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, opening Oct. 25, 2013.


www.rafaelsorianofoundation.org FOCUS of SWFL 2012 129


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