Stimulated by the extravaganza of geometric abstraction in postwar Paris, and encouraged by her friend Wifredo Lam, Soldevilla began to pursue a practice of painting and sculpture by the beginning of the 1950s. At the time a cultural attaché at the Cuban Embassy in France, Soldevilla took courses at la Grande Chaumiére and at the Atelier d'Art Abstrait, founded by Jean Dewasne and Edgard Pillet. A late-blooming artist, she was guided as well by such School of Paris stalwarts as Jean Arp and Ossip Zadkine and by the group that emerged around the Galerie Denise René, including Robert Jacobsen and Victor Vasarely. Soldevilla exhibited in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles (1951-55), and she had a number of solo exhibitions both in Paris and in Havana over the course of the decade.
Although her work engaged the optical and material values of concrete art, as proselytized by her generational cohort, Soldevilla has for decades been elided from the international history of geometric abstraction--in a way not unlike Carmen Herrera, whom she knew in Paris. Recent attention to Soldevilla's career comes at a time of new scholarly interest in Cuban abstraction and its cosmopolitan history. Without question, her return to Havana in 1956 sparked a nexus of activity around geometric abstraction and avant-garde practices. With Pedro de Ora, a concrete poet and artist and her companion, Soldevilla opened the Galería Color-Luz in 1957, exhibiting works by the international avant-garde that she had brought back with her from France alongside contemporary pieces by the Cuban vanguardia. She was a member of the short-lived group "Diez Pintores Concretos" (1959-61), which included such artists as Sandú Darié, Luis Martínez Pedro and Rafael Soriano. The work of "Los Diez" marks a little-known but fascinating episode in the history of geometric abstraction, and Soldevilla must be considered among the principal protagonists of this movement in Havana.
The present work belongs to a small series of sculptures and wood reliefs that engage spatial relationships through basic geometries set in two and three dimensions: lines and planes, circles and cubes. Here, the white and black cubes project outward in all directions, conceptually pushing the gridded spaces and building blocks of constructivist painting--from Piet Mondrian to Joaquín Torres-García--into a dynamic, multi-dimensional space. Spare yet intellectually rich, this sculpture suggests the centrifugal energy of the squared blocks, which appear almost to float in space; indeed, against the white walls of a traditional gallery setting, the white cubes test the limits of perception. Much like the contemporary white reliefs of Sergio Camargo, this work explores the optical play of light and shadow across modular geometries arranged in space. Soldevilla's works harbor no latent organicity, however, and their insistent non-objectivity is punctuated in this example by two black cubes, whose bilateral placement conceptually circumscribes the sculptural field. The visual play of white and black extends further to the black base and metal grid, which stabilize the kinetic energy contained by the suspended white cubes.
Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park