Ernesto González Puig: an avant-garde artist

/ 8 December, 2013

In 1975, in remarks for the catalog of the exhibition Puig. Dibujos y temperas. Algunas obras inéditas del 48 al 68 (Puig. Drawings and Temperas. Unpublished works from 48 to 68), organized at the Galería L, notable poet and critic Pedro de Oraá wrote that the figure of González Puig had been called upon to return to a relevant place in Cuban painting. In that sense, Oraá, also an artist, advocated for the need to undertake a retrospective exhibition that would reveal the long road traveled by Puig over several decades and his dissimilar pictorial periods. Twelve years later, in March 1987, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes organized an excellent show, curated by Orlando Hernández under the spot-on title Puig desconocido (The Unknown Puig). Implacable time continued its course, and 25 years after that ambitions exhibition Ernesto González Puig unfortunately continues to be an artist unknown to many.

When he was just 17, Puig held his first solo show in September 1934 at the Lyceum in Havana. Critics described him as the new sensation of Cuban painting, an artist in formation whose first attempt was viewed as authentic and undeniably innovative. His demonstrated zeal for setting things out with a focus on ideas beyond emotion was argument enough for highlighting his quality as an intellectual painter.

Subsequently, González Puig’s work continued along a course that diversified, but that was always marked by a sharp sense of experimentation. If there is one thing that never hurt him, it was precisely his extraordinary ability to create fables and worlds that were as unreal as they were divinely fantasized. Around the 1960s, that evolved into what is viewed as the principal axis of his creation: his islands and cities series. After an interesting process of reconsidering the island’s geography, and distanced from any type of localism, his landscapes acquired complete universality. With time, his islands became fierce and spiny and they filled up with suns, people, symbols and abundant vegetation. González Puig thus constructed his own song to insularity, persuaded that man should look at all times within himself and all around him.

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