Artist Humberto Castro
Artist Humberto Castro
The first 15-year retrospective of Humberto Castro, a leading member of Cuba’s renowned 1980s Generation of artists, will be held at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables.

Like other Cuban artists in the 1980s Generation, Castro studied at the San Alejandro National School of Fine Arts and the Instituto Superior de Arte. In the late 1970s, he was awarded nearly a dozen first place honors in Cuban competitions in painting, drawing and etching.

Along with such other members of the ’80s Generation as José Bedia and Tomás Sánchez, Castro participated in the first four Havana biennials, starting in 1984. During this same period the ’80s Generation artists were being widely exhibited in Europe and South America. In 1989 Castro and Bedia were included in the “Trayctoire Cubaine” project, first exhibited at the Centre d’Art Contemporain Pablo Neruda and the Galerie Nesle in Paris before traveling to museums in Gibellina and Orvieto, Italy.

Castro subsequently moved to Paris. His work there from 1989 to 1999 was featured in a 10-year retrospective at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale in 2001 in “Humberto Castro: The Paris Years.”

In his masterful catalog essay for that exhibition, professor and critic Ricardo Pau-Llosa demonstrates time and again how even Castro’s earliest work in Cuba used powerful imagery to protest its totalitarian government. “Practically any Cuban seeing these drawings would have understood their political invective in the terms the artist intended despite the absence of any incriminating direct references to the regime’s atrocities,” he wrote.

According to the late curator and art historian Giulio V. Blanc, Castro’s frequent references to mythology clearly link “his superb draftsmanship and painterly skills” to his homeland. “The separations of family and friends, the wanderings in foreign lands, are subjects that lend themselves to mythologizing on a Homeric scale,” Blanc wrote.

In two such references, those of the Minotaur in the labyrinth, and Icarus, whose homemade wings of wax and feathers melted, “the artist is surely alluding here to the hundreds whose flight from Cuba ended in a watery grave.”

Blanc went on to note that “in many of his drawings, Castro provides his fugitives with boats, in some cases toy boats, which bring to mind the flimsy homemade vessels of the balseros who risk their lives crossing the Straits of Florida. Humberto Castro seems to be telling us that in getting out of the labyrinth, success is not always to be expected.”

Subtle messages notwithstanding, critics universally agree that the work is unquestionably elegant. “Like a poet, Castro imbues his images with lyrical nuances without diminishing their impact,” states Jorge Hilker Santis, Curator of Collections at the Fort Lauderdale Museum and the curator of its exhibition of Castro’s works from Paris. “His discourse fuses mythological episodes with current events. In Castro’s able hands, gods become mortals and vice-versa. Their struggle, pain and triumph gain a universal resonance enticing our senses and intellect.”

Since 1981 Castro has participated in numerous juried and invitational exhibitions as well as solo shows throughout Europe, South America, the United States and elsewhere. His honors and awards are too numerous to list. In 1985, at the request of the Union of German Artists, he painted a 300-meter mural on the Berlin wall.

As a protest against the Cuban regime’s censorship, Castro joined other artists in a performance titled “Invasión” at a national conference on sex in art.

In recent years Castro has made his home in Miami, where he has continued to produce paintings and drawings in a unique fusion of his roots in Cuban art and its syncretic Afro-Cuban religion as well as a myriad of inspirations from his years in Paris.

Castro’s 15-year retrospective at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables (Miami), Florida, will cover his work from Paris through the recent years in Miami.

Castro will attend a reception in his honor from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3rd, at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in downtown Coral Gables at 169 Madeira Ave.

Other receptions for the artist will be held on Friday, December 1st and Friday, January 5th. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday and by appointment on Saturdays and evenings. For more information on the artist and the exhibition, visit www.virginiamiller.com.

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