Wifredo Lam. Imagining New Worlds

/ 23 November, 2014

At the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College through December 14, 2014


The history of art is often told as one breakthrough after another, but everyone knows that any such progression skips many truths and delights. Such tales are always more meandering and nuanced than any linear trajectory might suggest. Within the margins, gems abound. And among those is the work of Wifredo Lam, subject of the McMullen Museum of Art’s exhibit Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds.

Lam remains one of Cuba’s best-known artists. He was intimate of Picasso’s, a darling of the Surrealists and, later, a forerunner to the Abstract Expressionists. He swiftly mastered the leading art movements of his day, carrying along with him the mantle of being considered a true inheritor of the power of African art, which so many European artists then sought. All this, the McMullen Museum succinctly lays out as others have done before.

What sets this show apart, however, is its inclusion of a large number of prints and first edition illustrations, which, surprisingly suggests that printmaking is where Lam’s true talents lie.

(…) Arranged chronologically, the show begins with Lam’s rise as an obvious and ambitious talent, who left his studies in Havana for Madrid in 1923. There he came under the tutelage of Fernando Álvarez de Sotomayor y Zaragoza, the teacher of Salvador Dalí and the curator of the Museo del Prado. The immediate result can be seen in Lam’s Composición 11, and the more lurid Composición 1, in which smaller scaled people and buildings conflate distant time and space.


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