José Rosabal from and through abstraction

/ 2 June, 2015

A life journey

This summer, with the opening of the independent project Detrás del Muro II1 at the Twelfth Havana Biennial, a circle will close on the path towards abstraction of Cuban-born artist José Rosabal (Manzanillo, 1935). His large scale four-paneled abstract geometric mural Fountain of Light, up to this moment the largest piece in the artist’s body of work, intends to be a formal research as well as a translation of the dynamic life on the specific site chosen: Malecón Avenue and Belascoaín Street, not far from where he used to reside.
Throughout his career, Rosabal, a painter who came of age between the late 1950s and early 1960s, has shown a steady interest in abstraction; however, this was not always so. In 1959, in an exhibition review, poet and writer Severo Sarduy entangled him as a member of a generation of artists that defined their works by returning to figuration.This opinion was also shared by popular art critic Rafael Marquina, in his biweekly Sunday column in the Cuban newspaper Información, in which he reviewed one of Rosabal’s early group exhibitions.
In that brief figurative phase, his paintings displayed a clear interest in Cezanne’s artwork and Marc Chagall’s poetic surreal universe. Marquina appraised Jose Rosabal’s work as a new type of neo-expressionism. However, with his characteristically clever vision, he was the first critic to notice Rosabal’s bold and constant interest in colors, rhythm and music, solid conductive threads developing a devotion to a non-figurative alleyway of expression. (…)
1. Detrás del Muro II is an independent project presenting a group of international artists and curated by Juanito Delgado in collaboration with the Fondo de Bienes Culturales in Havana and the Cuban Arts Fund in New York.

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