The F—— Painting

/ 1 March, 2017

The time in which Leonel López-Nussa lived with open-mindedness, irreverence and adventure, in Cuba and in other countries, was the second half of the 20th century. (…) In his career, López-Nussa made what few could bear to do, thanks to a great capacity to write critical texts, to draw, to paint, to design, to travel, to cultivate friendships and extravagances, and to leader a valuable family of musicians, architects, from an economic modesty that allowed him not many luxuries and that he knew how to manage well in Latin America, Europe and, especially, France, another of his preferred homelands.

Most at all he is known as a draftsman, and with a certain reason, since he dedicated a book to that expression which today some ignore or do not take into account in his fair role. Akin to drawing, he made the engraving another extension of his aesthetic discourse, with equal ease. Within those expressions, the musicians, the music in general, turned into his preferred topic, almost into his “battle horse” tamed to tiredness (…). But López-Nussa was, is, much more than those popular characters placed by him on the map of Cuban visual arts.

(…) He did not belong to groups or trends in vogue. He did not sign anxious manifestos and did not feel, in the beginning of the 21st century, the now presumptuous wishes of circulating his ideas through the social networks, neither through the modest, and already almost ancient, email. He enjoyed a prolific loneliness, armed with books, memories and a profession in multiple directions. He was not a lonely wolf, but was similar to that intellectual species that has traversed with elegance and without rest plains and mountains of Cuban culture. He passed through the paths of abstraction in the first years of the 1950s, with works of small format. He preferred, in general, to privilege drawing intermingled with painting, leaning to it as if wanting to reduce its protagonism and then occupy the space of cardboards, masonites and canvases with an amazing austerity, perhaps passing inattentively, moving aside, before the avalanche with which the group Los Once flooded Havana.

But little by little he began exploring figuration. Hence his early interest in Cuban history during the 1960s that made him praise prominent figures of the libertarian wars for the independence of Cuba: Gómez, Agramonte, Maceo, Martí, together with mambises of a varied lineage and horses pawing the ground in the rebellious prairies and woodlands. They were all object of his attention in canvases of medium format, with dynamic compositions to overflow the two dimensions of the pictorial space. (…)

But, as always, he did not let himself to be besieged by only one form, only one topic (as seductive as it is, like the history) or even by a specific manifestation. (…) He widely moved in the turbulent waters of drawing, engraving, painting, with astonishing speed, since his ideas required different significant and aesthetic densities. From those morphological gesticulations works derived where the thick drawing and the color (mostly grey, white and black with some relief in red) were superimposed in forms trapped by a given anecdote or situation ready to tell us a minimal history to give way, later, to a pictorial formalization that was already known in Latin America as New Figuration.

(…) From there his appropriation of European expressionism and North American pop art in an indistinct way―when it would be convenient for his interests―, common then in certain areas of universal art and of Cuban art during the 1960s, as we appreciate in the works by Raúl Martínez, Umberto Peña and Antonia Eiriz. López-Nussa searched in such grounds but without suffocating himself too much. He left them with easiness and impatience, nervous, disturbed, perhaps influenced by that great friend of his, Samuel Feijóo, one of the “rare” in our visual arts, with whom he shared aesthetic lucubrations and all types of intellectual speculations. (…)


Nelson Herrera Ysla

Nelson Herrera Ysla

Art critic, curator, poet. He is co-founder of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center and of the Havana Biennial, an event he led from 1999 to 2001, and where he is currently curator. He has lectured in numerous countries and published numerous critical texts in specialized publications of Cuba and abroad. General Curator of the XVI Paiz Biennial of Guatemala, 2008. Essay Jury of the Casa de las Américas Prize, 2005, and international art events in Latin America. National Award for Arts Criticism Guy Pérez Cisneros, 2007, and National Prize for Curators 2013, both in Cuba.

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