Wifredo Lam. b. Sagua La Grande, Cuba (1902 – 1982), Inspired by and in contact with some of the most renowned artists of the 20th century, Lam melded his influences and created a unique style, which was ultimately characterized by the prominence of hybrid figures. Though he was predominantly a painter, he also worked with sculpture, ceramics and printmaking in his later life. During the 1930s Lam was exposed to a variety of influences. The influence of Surrealism was discernible in his work, as well as that of Henri Matisse. Throughout Lam’s travels through the Spanish countryside, he developed empathy for the Spanish peasants, whose troubles in some ways mirrored those of the former slaves he grew up around in Cuba. In 1938 Lam moved to Paris. He quickly gained the support of Picasso, who introduced him to many of the leading artists of the time, such as Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Joan Miró. Picasso also introduced him to Pierre Loeb, a Parisian art dealer; Loeb gave Lam his first exhibition at the Galerie Pierre Loeb in 1939, which received an enthusiastic response from critics. Picasso and Lam also exhibited their work together at the Perls Galleries in New York in the same year. Lam’s work went from showing the influence of Matisse, seen in his still lifes, landscapes and simplified portraits, to being influenced by Cubism. Wifredo Lam was influenced by the Afro-Cubans of the time. Lam dramatically synthesized the Surrealist and Cubist strategies while incorporating the iconography and spirit of Afro-Cuban religion. For that reason, his work does not belong to any particular art movement. He held the belief that society focused too much on the individual and sought to show humanity as a whole in his artwork. He painted generic figures, creating the universal. To further his goal, he often painted mask-like faces. While Cuban culture and mythology permeated his work, it dealt with the nature of man and therefore was wholly relatable to non-Cubans. In 2015 a retrospective exhibition of his works opened at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; this exhibition is to travel to the Reina Sofia Museum in Spain and the Tate Museum in London afterwards.
Wifredo Lam, Untitle, 1947, ink on paper, 9 x 11"