Curator Elizabeth Goizueta talks to Startup Cuba about Mariano Rodriguez's multi-decade exhibit at the McMullen Art Museum in Boston and soon the PAMM in Miami.
The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College hosts Elizabeth Goizueta and Mariano Variations on a theme.
Elizabeth Goizueta is the Curator of Mariano: Variations on a Theme | Variaciones sobre un tema at the McMullen Museum of Art in Boston and the Pérez Art Museum Miami (Aug. 2022). Photo: Startup Cuba

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.

“We just know him as Mariano. Like Cher. Madonna.”

Elizabeth Goizueta | Curator, Mariano: Variations on a Theme

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.

WATCH: Curator Elizabeth Goizueta talks about artist “Mariano” and the exhibit at the McMullen Art Museum at Boston College and the Pérez Art Musuem Miami.

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.

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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.

The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College hosts Elizabeth Goizueta and Mariano Variations on a theme.
The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College. Photo: Startup Cuba

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.

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Ken Deckinger is the co-founder and CEO of Startup Cuba and the executive producer and host of its namesake docuseries. A native of South Florida, Ken has been an entrepreneur for his entire professional career. Previously he was co-founder and CEO of HurryDate, pioneering the global concept of speed dating to 45 cities throughout the US, UK and Canada. HurryDate eventually evolved into online dating and was acquired by Spark Networks, the parent company of and Ken is a graduate of Boston College and the University of Florida, where he was honored with the University’s Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Under 40 award and sits on the Board for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He actively advises entrepreneurs and is a two-time protagonist of a Harvard Business School case study. Ken’s filmmaking and journalistic journey is inspired by a love of travel and authentic connections with other cultures. He believes that the more we know about each other, through stories, the closer we can become — thus the mission of Startup Cuba: to amplify the voices of the people sharing stories in the Latinx space. After living in New York City for 15 years, he encouraged his wife to move their family to Miami to get back to his South Florida roots. Needless to say, it was a short discussion and he and his family now call Boston, where his wife grew up, their home.

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