If we were to talk about loyalties in the world of art, of faith, perseverance, tenacity, and devotion, we would have to think about the painter Antonio Vidal (Havana, 1928-2013), one of the founding members of Los Once, and the last surviving member until just a few months ago.
As elusive as the next guy, he was introverted and shy, and once blurted out in an interview that his greatest aspiration was to become “an invisible man.” He certainly did evade public events, taking refuge in the shadows of his room, and there, expressing himself as he pleased—impassioned and free, like all who believe deeply in what they do without the need for anyone to tell them— until he received, with surprise, perhaps, and to the satisfaction of many, the 1999 National Visual Arts Award. After that, his life changed and we saw him as more attentive to the hustle and bustle of his city’s social and cultural life, more curious about the paraphernalia of the world that he observed on television or read about in the newspapers.
Best known for his pictorial work on canvas, Vidal explored with other media and materials from the late 1950s to the 1960s: sandpaper, jute, corrugated cardboard, masonite, denim…. On occasion, he would use earthenware for making murals on public buildings, such as Havana’s famous La Época department store, at a time when great Cuban artists were called upon to bring their work to the walls of hotels, administration buildings, restaurants, cafeterias, and offices. (…) Vidal not only made murals, he also designed stained glass windows and signs for the large warehouses of Sears and Inclán in Havana, and he did advertising work for an American company, which in fact made him an unusual artist, fit to practice the environmental arts. In truth, if we were to add all of that up with his incursions into engraving and comic strips, we could describe him as a “multidisciplinary artist.”