Gina Pellón (b. Cumanayagua, Cuba, 1926 – d. Paris, 2014). At the beginning, she attended the San Alejandro Academy in Havana, Cuba where she received a solid-six-year formative training which later on helped her become a knowledgeable and confident artist. Her resolute spirit to stay on the pulse and a no-fear personality takes her to France. Reborn in 1959 (the definitive year when Gina left the island with another group of Cuban artists and arrived in Paris), she immediately fell in love with the city and decided to stay permanently. Paris offered the young artist, a vibrant atmosphere, a bountiful cultural life and a different group of friends. From this moment on, and despite the obvious difficulties of adaptation while living in exile, she worked hard and pursued her long-standing desire to become a professional artist. She expanded her horizons, mingled with personalities such as Breton, Matta, Lam, Asger Jorn, and learned about the popular art movements of the times. Throughout her career, she received several awards such as, the Medal of the City of Cholet (France, 1961), Order of Arts and Letters (France, 1978), and the Cintas Foundation Fellowship (New York, 1978), among others. Her work has been exhibited in several solo and group exhibitions at galleries and museums in Venice, Miami, Silkeborg (Denmark), Paris, Copenhagen, Nantes, Amsterdam, Toulouse, Trodheim (Norway), Caracas, and Lausanne (Switzerland), among other cities.
“Although color is the major protagonist in this artist’s work, we must not forget the presence of her characters: fairies, dolls, butterflies, birds ... always winged characters in search of transparency, as Juan Ramon Jimenez requested in his best poems in Background Animal. Gina Pellon’s encounter with the group Cobra, as well as with the lyrical rapture of Chagall or the magic of Aloyse, was the catalyst for work that was already acquiring a maturity of expression shaped in Havana. Paris was, however, the decisive encounter as for so many other artists. Matta, for example, provided her with dynamic color within space, while the Cobra artists granted spontaneity and boldness, constant elements in her work. Armed with an extensive and intense gamut of color, the world of Gina Pellon bursts into light, conveying a strange message for our times: the joy of being.”
Fragment retrieved from the essay “10 Cuban Artists in Paris” by Carlos M. Luis.
DRESSED OF WATERS
The monumental proportions of a little piece
“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a
little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if
you ran very fast or a long time, as we’ve been doing.”
The White Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland
Gina Pellón was a magical being, as magic is her artwork. This book is made with the idea of providing the viewer with the necessary tool to penetrate the extraordinary world of the artist. She, born as Caridad Georgina Antonia Pellón Blanco in Cumanayaguas, Cuba, 1939, liked to say, however, that she opened her eyes to the world in 1959. And somehow it was, since this year she arrived in Paris, the city where her work was born, her way of looking and painting.
After graduating from the San Alejandro Academy (1954), Gina devoted herself to teaching. Working with children was decisive for her definition and specific qualities in her painting. Another source of influence, no less important, was Abstract Expressionism. Pellón herself recognizes her early influences on the American movement, specifically she was attracted to the work of Jackson Pollock. From this movement, the young artist knew how to capture the striking brilliance of color through its purest quality.
It was in Paris where she discovered herself, and projected her own and definitive voice, acquiring the Cuban identity a new context for the artist, who at that time was in the midst of searching and in an attempt to fix her universe expressive. The City of Light gave the young creator contact with other intellectuals. There she met the Parisian surrealists and connected with the COBRA group, one of the main avant-garde movements and milestone of European abstract expressionism. Gina tells in an interview to Gustavo Valdés:
“The stay in this city was limited by the Cuban government to three months, Roberto Fernández-Retamar, who was the Cuban cultural attache in Paris, demanded our return. I flatly refused, and in doing so my opposition to the Cuban government became evident. Fernández-Retamar was furious, but I stayed in Paris ”. From here Gina and her work began to run the world.
“I have nothing to fear,” she said. “When an artist leaves his country, he can keep a family horizon. Mine is still Cuban. I have run around the world three times, from north to south, from east to west, and have decided to always stay here. I feel that in the United States people are willing to take risks, and that nowhere else is there the same degree of freedom of expression. However, I have happily lived in Paris, because I was immediately welcomed. For me this city is the heart of the world ”.
In Paris, Pellón’s work was intense and prolific. Her personal exhibitions in France, Brussels, Lausanne, Denmark, Amsterdam, Miami, Caracas, among others, were numerous and even more so her participation in group exhibitions. Despite so many years of life in France and the intense relationship maintained with the Scandinavian countries, the seal of belonging to the Caribbean and the Cubanness of her art remained intact. Pellón was also a supportive advocate for the cause of the democratization of Cuba, and was involved in various activities for the freedom of political prisoners and the freedom of the Island. In addition to being a painter, Gina was also a poet. This is something that is always denoted in her works, due to the sensitivity and direct confrontation of her characters with the viewer, who becomes an accomplice of them and gets to share their intimacies.
Some critics have observed the need for artists, over the years, to increase the size of their pieces. Faced with the above, the case of Gina Pellón, whose work seems to move in the opposite direction, is notable. Most of Gina’s pieces are of a small format, which would be gradually reduced. Gina knew that her world was infinite, and to appreciate it, one had to decrease the scale as one does when one wants to show the immensity of the universe. In this sense, the work Gina Pellón, (Untitled 1996), watercolor and ink, collage on paper, 12.75 x 19.75” is without a doubt the most intimate of all her works, not only because of the approach that it requires, but also because of the secrets it contains.
This single piece, which forms the project “Dressed of Waters: The monumental proportions of a little piece” -belonging to The Rodríguez Collection- requires a special, deep, microscopic and meticulous look. Within this collage are sixty miniatures, made for a special observer. These sixty artworks, considered in their individuality, are the entrance tickets to the universe of Gina Pellón. Perhaps the artist, like Marcel Duchamp, concludes that all her work fits in a suitcase, in a folder, or on a small piece of paper measuring 12.75 x 19.75 inches.
To create this work, Gina goes through the little door of her studio, enters her magical space and immerses herself in her world, like Alice in Wonderland, forcing us to use a magnifying glass to discover and enjoy so much beauty. About her representation of women and small animals, she explains: “they call me from the blank paper to become a reality through my gestures ...”. Pellón continues: “Each painting is a different story.” This work rests on a consummate skill and technique, as a kind of ancestral ritual hidden under gestural tranquility.
This book is created out of the need to share our observations and delusions with a wider audience. For this project we have stripped the work, and thanks to technology, it has been possible to magnify its details, to allow us to look and share with Gina Pellón from privacy. This work is an exercise in abundance, kindness and talent that only great artists can achieve.
Gina Pellón got to somewhere else, because she ran very fast for a long time.
Henry Ballate. M.F.A.
Kendall Art Center Art Director
Chief Curator of The Rodríguez Collection
RC0120316 Gina Pellon, Untitled, 1996, water color and ink on paper, 12.75 x 19.75"