The Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University will host an exhibition spotlighting the first American retrospective of Cuba’s best-known and most influential Surrealist, Wifredo Lam, October 11⁊anuary 21. “Wifredo Lam in North America” features more than 60 drawings and paintings from North American collections that best represent the different phases of Lam’s career.
Dr Lowery Stokes Sims, adjunct curator, Studio Museum of Harlem and visiting professor, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and Hunter College, will deliver the opening lecture, “Wifredo Lam and the New York Art Scene,” at 6 pm, Thursday, October 11, which will be followed by a reception. The event is free and open to the public.
“Wifredo Lam in North America” was organized by the Haggerty Museum of Art and includes works from North American museums, galleries and private collections across the United States and the Caribbean. Lenders to the exhibition include the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution; The Menil Collection, Houston; Miami Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as well as galleries and collectors throughout North America.
The focus of this exhibition is on the impact of Lam’s Cuban, and in particular Afro Cuban, identity in the development of his style, leading to the creation of a hybrid vocabulary reflecting his immersion in Paris School, Surrealist and Afro Cuban aesthetics. The role of American museums, galleries and private collectors in bringing about a renaissance of interest in Lam’s works is also explored.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Haggerty Museum of Art is publishing a full-color illustrated catalog that will make a significant contribution to the scholarship on Lam.
Lam (1902‱982) was born to a Chinese immigrant and a Cuban woman of African and Spanish ancestry and is known for celebrating his heritage through his art by merging Afro Cubanism with the Paris School and Surrealist influences. His early life in Cuba had been grounded in Santeria, a religion that combines African Yoruba deity worship with the Catholic tradition of prayer to the saints.
Lam left Cuba in 1923 when he received a scholarship to study at the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Remaining in Spain until 1937, he participated in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side before moving to Paris where he became a close friend of Picasso. Through him, Lam met other leading artists in Paris who influenced his style of painting. In 1940, he left Paris for Marseilles, where he took refuge from World War II with a group of Surrealists.
Lam returned to Cuba in 1941 and rediscovered the lush Cuban landscape as well as his Afro Cuban heritage. He took the techniques of synthetic Cubism based on forms of traditional African sculpture and reinterpreted them through Afro Cuban culture.
Lam’s work began to draw international recognition in the 1940s. He was featured in full-length magazine articles and conducted solo shows in London, Paris and New York City. In 1964, he received the Guggenheim International Prize. Between 1947 and 1952, Lam lived and worked in Havana, New York and Paris, where he settled permanently, continuing his long, productive career until his death in 1982.
His work can be found in major museums throughout the world, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Modern in London.
After the exhibition at the Haggerty Museum concludes, it will travel to the Miami Art Museum (February 8⁍ay 18), the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, Calif. (June 12⁁ugust 31), and the Dali Museum, St Petersburg, Fla. (October 2, 2008⁊anuary 10, 2009).
The Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University is at North 13th Street and West Clybourn Avenue. For information, 414-288-1669 or www.Marquette.edu.