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The way to abstraction
Carina Pino-Santos
 
Living Abstraction
It will be, then, Antonio Vidal himself, an artist who will forever have a place in our art history for his work and his links with the esthetic rebelliousness of the fifties, a well-known professor at the National Art School, to whom his former students remember as a rather inscrutable personality and, at the same time, a demanding educator as for the creative work, who give us his testimony first:

. “Los Once was the result of a generation meeting. We formed a group because, being young, we wanted to break off with all precedents. We were a group of idealists producing a hard-to-sell art which, at that time, most people were not interested in.

. “In fact, every one of us had charted his own course, without ever coming to an agreement, since we had never a proclaim, or call ourselves Los Once (The Eleven).

. “We did have similar ideas regarding creation because, deep down, we wanted to make another kind of art, different from Portocarrero’s and Mariano’s..., who were our friends. We were influenced by the American painting some of us knew through the Goya and Art News magazines. Later, in practice, the group got reduced to five of us that were very close: Hugo Consuegra, Guido Llinás, Raúl Martínez, Tomás Oliva and I.

. “Raúl joins the group of Los Once later. He had previously traveled to the United States to study at the Chicago School of Design, a sort of Bauhaus.

. “However, none of us could make a living from painting and therefore devote ourselves to it. I, for instance, had to work in advertising for an American company.

. “We used to hold our meetings either at Raúl Martínez’s place or at the café Las Antillas, where writes, poets and artists used to go often. I remember Luis Marré, Pedro de Oraá, Baragaño; Padilla, who was not a regular (by the way, he was very boastful) and Escardó, who, back then, was always starving.

. “We began to exhibit and we got to show at the most prestigious art gallery in Havana, the Lyceum. We held a meeting there, and we agreed not to exhibit our work at Franco’s Biennale, because if Franco was a dictator, so was Batista. And we had the Anti-biennale.

. “In the history of Los Once there were artists who were more serious than others and some rather curious anecdotes took place. José I. Bermúdez, for instance, participated in the first exhibition only, and then moved to Washington. Just imagine how abstract he was that he was a cubist and had this crazy idea that he had to go over all the stages of painting to get to abstract art. Later Guido Llinás convinced him that such a plan was absolutely unnecessary.

. “There was also an artist named Viredo, who was not good enough in my opinion. During an exhibition at Fine Arts he showed up carrying a painting that should have had a sign saying “Wet paint”, because he must have finished it the day before, so we rejected it.

. “For me, there are three favorite artists: Wifredo Lam, Amelia Peláez and Antonia Eiriz.

. “At that time we made an exhibition, in a way to pester, at the Círculo de Bellas Artes. It was like getting into the most academic cave at that moment. Many criticized us. Oraá, who perceived it, call it later in his article as what it was, a boutade.


Carina Pino-Santos (excerpt from “El camino de la abstracción” [The Way to Abstraction]. Revolución y Cultura magazine, Nº 1- 1999).