"In his best paintings, he is Cuba's best painter."
Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Fidelio Ponce, without innovations or inventions, drawing his expression from the plastic language he had found, produced some of the most original work of his time. Starting from the direct spiritual intuition he refers to as "the internal model", he has little to do with his environment. Faithful to a primal cause, he knows what he is looking for and how to reach it.
His trait reveals absolute certainty and extreme delicacy. It moves in any direction and with all degrees of intensity, without inclining unto a basic pattern or temperamental mood. He does not hesitate, nor correct, nor try different options. He gropes in undetermined matter in search of his well known object. Image, thus, comes out exactly defined, through slight but precise insinuations. It refuses to be imposed, either by argument or by emphasis; it must be accepted just on evidence.
He works mostly with a palette of white and gray, ochre, brown or green, that distance his objects from the flow of time. When using colors, mixed with white, they blend in iridescences, almost like mother-of-pearl. The object, though fickle, is nearer to the material plane of touch, like an unknown magic or an untrod experience.
"The Piano Lesson", 1940, belongs to what we call the "scenes" (unlike the "visions"). Beyond the stage opening arch, a movement is taking place among several figures. Not a shift, but a sort of dance perpetually performed.
The girls are not casually playing. Beyond the foreground where the dog lies, in a hinder plane extending infinitely, some graceful beings are performing a kinetic ensemble to be watched from eternity. The vagueness of the figures limits the observer from grasping their nature. But this is enough to know they are souls, not things, nor archetypes, nor abstractions.
As on the stage, light comes not from a definite source, but falls upon the objects, stressing their meaning, to guide the observer's questioning. The painter did not care to give us back the existential plane we were in, more or less transformed, but to reveal us another one, not visible before.
Within what culture, tradition or style must we classify this painter who doesn't seem to belong to any, nor minds it?.....Where else but in Cuba, 1940..., was this picture painted?
Ponce, while on this earth, unknown; perhaps occasionally admired. But as time shall pass, men will come from all places to contemplate at least one of his works -so unique and inimitable-, for its truth lighted in their souls will nevermore allow them to remain still.
Miami, August 1996