Emancipated and Graceful
There are figures that turn on memory, that freeze time and search in history and then they transcend their own established mark. Amelia Peláez is one of those figures, unquestionable icon of Latin American and Caribbean art; unusual, daring, refreshing artist. Chronicler of her time but distant from avant-garde movements and communities, this recognized artist founded a style of her own filled with new sensibilities, a seal that dragged with it the teachings of the modernist prevailing movements and got away from the already stale local color or the Afro-Cuban element, which were used over and over by her colleagues of the country.
Within her initial works, once she was established in the Havana near 1935, it is remarkable a series of drawings in which some designs taken from Cuban interior domestic rooms are glimpsed; such artworks already announce the transformation of the finds of the Cubism into a less strict and more national language. Perhaps her watercolors belong to this first stage where wide curves govern all the composition and the areas of color are extended in ranges that are restricted but also rich in red, orange, blue and sienna shades… Once more the opulence of those Creole salons is exposed with discrete sensuality in a space that has become quiet and homogeneous, a space that reveals the local forms created by our craftsmen, that recovers and transforms the past.
Colonial balustrades, scrolls, colonnades, designs of floors, screen and stained glasses become the structural elements, along with the typical shades that have traditionally accompanied these forms. Loneliness and nostalgia woo these artworks, the desire for a universe in ruins that still retains shoots of elegance and distinction, vestiges of a culture that we recognize as ours.
However, the personal morphology of her artworks reveal, with the autochthony of the discourse, a modern artistic language, emancipated at the time, which is even a prelude of the national abstraction. In her watercolors, Amelia builds, recreates at will, she is not satisfied with what she sees with her eyes; that vision is the primary stimulus for a constructive production that searches for the artistic possibilities of an environment freely chosen.
Similar to her more recognized interior rooms, the watercolors lack of figures that could allude to human presence. They are enough to themselves, amid the apparent mottling of architectural and decorative elements illuminated by the clarity that offers the stained glass. However, Amelia is in every detail, in that enclosed world that is configured again and again, and which was, without any doubts, her everyday environment, her protection and shelter.
Two great artists saw the light under cover of the artistic avant-garde, two figures that are icons of the art and the culture on the Island. Amelia Peláez and Antonia Eiriz played an important role in the thankless, heroic and extended fight of the local artists for imposing a new, effective and truly Cuban language. Without any doubt, the first artist fertilized the second one.