Mariano Rodriquez (b. 1912, Havana; d. 1990, Havana), known simply as “Mariano,” is a Cuban avant-garde modernist painter. The current viewing, Mariano: Variations of a Theme | Variaciones sobre un tema, curated by Elizabeth Goizueta is the first major retrospective exhibition of his work in the United States.
Spanning almost the entire twentieth century, Mariano is regarded as one of the most important painters of Cuba’s segunda vanguardia; the second generation of the island’s modernists. His work follows themes such as roosters, women and guajiros (peasants). Each of the themes are reinterpreted over and over again throughout decades of painting with a different lexicon as he grows as an artist; adopting geographic (i.e., Parisian, Mexican) and periodic influences.
I had the good fortune to sit down with Curator Elizabeth Goizueta to talk about Mariano as an artist and what it means to have this exhibit on display at the McMullen Art Museum in Boston. For me, sharing his work in this Northeast U.S. hub city is the epitome of using culture as a tool to build bridges beyond the usually expected Cuban-American locales.
Mariano is not completely unknown in the United States; he’s a well known quantity in Miami in particular. And, he’s quite popular in Latin American and Europe as well. In fact, one-fourth to a third of the paintings in this current exhibit come from Europe.
Since the Cuban revolution though, museums in the United States stopped collecting and showing his works. So, there’s a lot to view. Even people in Miami who know of him, haven’t seen the breadth and depth of his work to the extent it is displayed at the McMullen.
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As a modernist, Mariano’s work offers us a valuable glimpse at what daily life was like in Cuba at different periods. “For someone involved in Cuban culture, it’s a real window into the twentieth century in Cuba,” Goizueta tells Startup Cuba. “Using the paintings as a departure point you can make connections between what was happening in Cuba, in the U.S. and around the world.”
Mariano stayed in Cuba after, and was a supporter of the Cuban Revolution. The exhibition however is not politically oriented. It’s solely about Mariano as an artist and using art to go beyond politics; a tool to make connections between people. And, subject matter aside, his work as a painter is a treat for anyone; art aficionado or not. His painting, his colors, all of it are guaranteed to draw you in – as it did to me.
The Mariano exhibit runs at the McMullen Museum at Boston College until December 5th, 2020. The end is approaching quickly but I’d encourage you to visit it if you’re in Boston. The venue itself is beautiful; a neo-renaissance Italian palazzo that was formerly a cardinal’s residence. It’s open to the public and free, with a lawn to let the kids run and even a rooftop to spend an afternoon.
If you miss the Boston run, the exhibit will display in August, 2022, at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami. For information or to learn about exhibition dates visit the PAMM website.