Miguel Florido: A New Cuban Voice

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A new favorite in international art fairs (ArtLA, ArtChicago, ArteAmericas, ArtMiami), his work already sold in major auction houses, Miguel Florido continues to live and work in Cuba. The following essay was commissioned for Cernuda Arte, a Coral Gables gallery.

Isolated 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 just his youth and sensitivity in tow, he arrived in Madrid. There he found the Baroque: Zurbaran, Murillo, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Velazquez at the Prado and the Thyssen. The young painter would never  be the same. The still lifes by Sanchez-Cotan as well as the many examples of vanitas paintings exhibited in both institutions made lasting impressions on Florido.

The still life genre, in the manner of Sanchez Cotan 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 Aun aguardo tu presencia (2002). A Chastelian (Andre Chastel) reading would detect the elements of a self-sacrificial altar and ritual.

Vanitas appears in Florido’s canon removed from its Judeo-Christian references. In a work like La alegria (2001) the dramatic tension of the fleeting moment –life ephemeral — is communicated with the same tenebristic intensity of the Caravaggisti. 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 briefness of pleasure and worldly happiness. Absence prompts the pictorial meditations (La cruz va por dentro, 2001, Aqui esperandote 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 well as the “betriegertje” (Back of a Painting) genre from Dutch Baroque master Cornelius Norbert Gijsbrecht. The young painter infuses his signature lyricism, subtlety, and nostalgia to this new language. “Papers” is an experimental series where he engages in a serious reflection on absence, separation, and the metaphysics of presence, a topic of vital importance for the contemporary philosophical debate.

Miguel Florido is an extraordinary case study in visual culture. Precocious in his wish to explore verisimilitude and illusionism in drawing, totally removed from the propaganda overload of an urban setting, and absent from “officialist” training, he acquired his unique artistic profile after a trip to Madrid. His work is free from the political zigzag of the Havana regime, the overly-depicted Cuban life and folklore, conceptual or video art artifice, the predictable offering. The colonialist First World expects and consumes these commodities as pieces of an exotic, tropical, anti-Yankee, forbidden, Socialist, and perhaps quixotic social experiment. The Cuban official artworld supplies folklore, carnivalesque Dionysiac eros, “negritude,” some political criticism, and postmodern kitsch. Florido’s proposal is, in turn, radical.

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 nationalistic as Marti, Avellaneda, and Baquero for whom Madrid was also an important artistic milieu.

Florido’s visits to Zurbaran, Sanchez-Cotan, the Dutch, and Claudio Bravo never make him derivative. His voice is powerful, his language very much his own. His meditations and poetry are as delicate as the orchid in Soledad (2003). Isolated in the Cuban countryside, Miguel Florido whispers in his canvases strokes of yearning, pain, desire, dreams, love, and hope.

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1 Comment

  1. emma ruiz

    September 21, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

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    saludos desde miami te invito te unas a facebook
    emma ruiz