Mario Carreño - Latin America New York Tuesday, November 22, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of Beatriz M. Vázquez, Havana
    Museo Nacional, Havana
    La Acacia Gallery, Havana
    Sotheby's, New York, Latin American Art, May 29, 1997, lot 139
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Arguably the prime mover behind the phenomenal rise of “Concrete Cuba,” Carreño was a charismatic, public champion of abstraction throughout the 1950s. Among the leaders of the celebrated Havana School, renowned for its color-driven expressions of the vernacular landscape a decade earlier, he had already begun to turn toward geometry by the time of his return to Cuba, following an extended sojourn in New York, in late 1951. “My humble ‘guajiros’ [peasants] followed the geometric trend,” Carreño explained of this new direction in his work. “Everything led to the square.” With fellow concretos Sandú Darié and Luis Martínez Pedro, he founded the magazine Noticias de Arte (1952-53) and used his editorial platform to advocate for the place of abstraction within the trajectory of modern Cuban art. His paintings from this decade manifest his belief in abstraction and its universal horizons, and they anticipated the consolidation of the movement at the end of the decade by the group of artists known as “Los Diez Pintores Concretos.”

    “The evolution of his art is guided by our century’s creative dialectic,” Darié wrote in 1957, on the occasion of an exhibition of Carreño’s geometric paintings at Havana’s Palacio de Bellas Artes. “Abstract in view of their intellectual content, non-figurative because they do not copy reality at all.” Although Carreño disavowed a facile realism, many of his Concrete paintings betray the residual memory of his iconography from the 1940s, particularly its Afro-Cuban derivation, hinted for example in the triangle and crescent moon shapes seen in the present work. “This painter expresses his artistic emotion with color on the physical space of the surface of the canvas, defining his basic forms and arranging them with a constructive sense in vertical and horizontal directions,” Darié continued. “Familiar with optical pictorial phenomena, and with the psychological behavior before colors of certain light vibrations caused by a marvelous texture, Mario Carreño succeeds in expressing his artistic intuition under rationalized control.” That balance between order and emotion is sensitively calibrated in the present lot, in which rectangles in variegated, primary tones of red, yellow, and blue float against a resonant azure ground, suspended in a grid of vertical lines. The abstraction is both constructive and intuitive in kind, its universalism connected to modernist aesthetics, stretching back to Kandinsky’s color theory, and to the national context of Cuba’s vanguardia tradition out of which Carreño had emerged.

    Abigail McEwen, PhD

  • Artist Biography

    Mario Carreño

    Cuban • 1913 - 1999

    Throughout his career, Mario Carreño produced a large body of diverse work ranging in style from Neo-Classical Figuration to Abstraction, and he is widely recognized as a key figure in Modern Cuban art. Carreño spent his formative years abroad, visiting Mexico in 1935 and later traveling throughout Europe in the 1940s. While in Europe, Carreño drew great inspiration from such contemporary avant-garde styles as Expressionism, Cubism and Abstraction.

    Like Amelia Peláez, Carlos Enrique and other second-generation Vanguardia artists, Carreño aimed to incorporate European Modernist style into his oeuvre while developing a nationalist visual lexicon. His seminal works from the '40s, including Fuego en el Batey, Corte de Caña and Danza Afrocubana are brilliantly colored Duco works that each represent an essential element of Cuban identity.

    View More Works



signed and dated "Carreño 53" lower right
oil on paper mounted on canvas
23 1/8 x 30 in. (58.7 x 76.2 cm)
Painted in 1953.

$90,000 - 120,000 

Contact Specialist
Kaeli Deane
Head of Sale, Latin American Art
New York
+1 212 940 1352

Latin America

New York Auction 22 November 2016