Mario Carreño (Cuban 1913-1999)
Mario Carreño (Cuban 1913-1999)

Mediodía lunar

Mario Carreño (Cuban 1913-1999)
Mediodía lunar
signed and dated 'Carreño- 52' (lower right)
oil on canvas
31 x 24 in. (78.7 x 61 cm.)
Painted in 1952.
Jerrold Morris International Gallery Limited, Toronto.
Mr. Clifford Jackson collection, Brooklyn.
Private collection, Brooklyn (by descent from the above).
Exhibition catalogue, El mundo nuevo de los cuadros de Carreño, Havana, Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Ministerio de Educación, Palacio de Bellas Artes, 1957 (illustrated).
São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, II Bienal, 1953-54, no. 7.

Lot Essay

In a statement made in 1957 Cuban Madi artist Sandú Darié asserted that "the evolution of [Mario Carreño's] painting is guided by the creative dialectic of our century. Conscious of the need for a universal expression, his work may be situated within the intellectual nucleus responsible for contemporary painting." [1] Since the late 1940s Carreño's work established a vivid dialogue with the philosophical writings of German art historian Wilhelm Worringer, one that conceived the reduction of basic forms as a search for purity. This dialogue opened new windows into innovative formal approaches and avenues for countless visual solutions. A successful expression of this creative pictorial research is Mediodía lunar, which was widely exhibited internationally and was part of the 1953 Cuban representation at the II Bienal de São Paulo.

Upon his return to Havana in 1951, Carreño was striving to reconnect with his Caribbean roots after extensive travel through South America and a prolonged stay in New York where he witnessed firsthand the evolution of modern art. He sought to renew and invigorate his work with a Caribbean spirit, with the intention of using simple geometric forms to express local colors and the transparent effects of light, but instead his production stirred toward a radical abstraction. Those abstract forms are the result of a process of exploration using forms and colors to evoke and recreate incidental subjects and themes, whose circumstances are at times revealed through titles that connect with the subject matter in suggestive ways.

Mediodía lunar, inspired by the popular song Vereda Tropical, is an exercise oriented toward capturing the culture and ambiance of Carreño's motherland; the clear night light of the Caribbean countryside is reconfigured and poetically built. In this painting we can find some remnants of his previous figurative work in a language of simple elements, a clear eloquence of planimetric forms organized in space and metaphorically charged. Painted at a time in which his work was becoming pictorially resolved through geometry, the main elements in this composition, as well as the background, are constructed as an organization of flat panels of colors to envision a reductive and essential reality. Formally and conceptually Carreño's goals and intentions were moving from mirroring local narratives toward a more comprehensive expression of values. The Argentinean art critic Jorge Romero Brest wrote of Carreño in 1952, referring to the artist's work at the Venice Biennial "he has in recent years practiced a syncretic folklorism, but has now abandoned the picturesque and is exploring the problem of [painting] through genuinely universal terms." [2]

Rafael DiazCasas, independent curator and art historian

1) Darié, Sandú. "Mario Carreño en la aventura plástica de este siglo," in exhibition catalogue Exposición Carreño, Pinturas 1950 1957, Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba, 1957.
2) Romero Brest, Jorge. "Exposición Bienal de Venecia," Ver y Estimar, Buenos Aires, Argentina, no. 29 -30, 1952.

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