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25 April 2003

Bermudez’ art exhibit at the Lowe lacks emotion, but is aesthetically exciting

Spicy cigars, intoxicating coffee, balmy weather – along with this collection of distinguished Cuban exports is master painter Cundo Bermudez. An homage to Bermudez, A Life in Art, is handily on campus at the Lowe Art Museum this month and celebrates his over 60 years worth of contributions to the art world.

Now 88 years old, the Havana resident continues to find solace in his art: “I enjoy painting as Mozart used to enjoy music,” he has said on several occasions. This month’s exhibit at the Lowe presents more than 50 original works by Bermudez, dating from the 1940s to the present.

Every work echoes trademarks of Bermudez’ work: large noses, stocky figures and a captivating use of light that creates a metallic effect on ribbons of color. Unfortunately, many of the pieces seem to be lacking emotion. There’s no magic in the genre scenes. While they are intended to be simple portraits of everyday events, the faces of the characters are expressionless.

Cuba confirms itself in Bermudez’ style. He employs thick brush strokes that bring out the best of the dark, punchy colors. There is no place for pastels among zesty reds, searing blues and warm golden tones.

The unorthodox Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” is chunky and androgynous, embracing her secret lover over a vibrant garden. “Trio” shows three shadowy, Cycladic-like figures holding musical instruments. In “El Billar,” three men enjoy a game of billiards against a tropical backdrop. “Screen,” a mirrored quadtych, is duly impressive, featuring a carved wood border framing Bermudez’ trademark bright paintings.

In “Couple,” a pair sits on opposite sides of a canvas, sporting what seem to be aqua-colored turbans. “The Flora” deviates from Bermudez’ typical genre scenes with an attractive plant motif that exudes the transparent, multi-colored quality of stained glass.

The standout here however is “Portrait of Gloria Martinez” from 1976, featuring a sultry brown-haired beauty, the golden glow of her skin enhanced by Bermudez’ warm yellow background.

Bermudez’ Picasso-like angles and geometric figures as well as his passionate use of color in the scenery all create a compelling atmosphere. It’s a shame that there is no underlying emotional tone in this collection – though perhaps it’s just a matter of personal taste.

A Life in Art runs through June 1st at the Lowe Art Museum, 1301 Stanford Drive. Call 305-284-3535 for more info.

Jessica Misener can be reached at jessm02@yahoo.com