Manuel Mendive, Magia de Mitos, Energía, Sensaciones

Manuel Mendive, Magic of Myths, Energy, Sensations

Last modified: January 24, 2023

Manuel Mendive carries the myths in his bones. They come out to the outside world transformed into poetry, energy and color. The fantasies, traditions and realities from the Afro-Cuban imaginary land on his pieces – true trophies to the good taste – where the original dreams and the live seen through time walk around freely. The artist – graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts “San Alejandro”, in 1963 – studied in the Department of Ethnology and Folklore of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, and History of Art at the School of Letters of the University of Havana.

With a particular magic he combines the shades, joins the man with the earth that bred him, and also with nature (the plants, the animals…), creating a personal space where his creatures move in a time that seems to be static. Everything vibrates in a festive natural environment, where every element has its own place. In his paintings we can observe the joie de vivre, and the imagination awakes. This imagination that comes from a deep feeling of the reality and the earth, and from a live religious sensibility, where rites and beliefs are transformed into sensations. Purely Cuban, Manuel Mendive centers his creativity on the African ancestors, taking a lot from the Yoruba pantheon. He combines different technics, methods, styles and tones on dissimilar materials and textures which enrich his work. Paintings, drawings, sculptures…, they all move inside his artistic prism that doesn’t know limits when it comes to supports: wood, cloth, iron, ceramics, stone, leather, and even the human body constitute perfect surfaces to reflect the most varied myths, dreams and plastic chronicles which trap the spectators.

Images similar to those of the beginning of life in the Earth, codes that come from an exuberant universe as the eternal dialogue between man-nature, are braided in his birds, fish, landscapes and spaces of fantasy that grow in canvases/cards/sculptures to make us travel visually through his universe. Every form created or recreated by the artist, National Prize of Plastic Arts 2001, is an enjoyment of a great dimension that carries us nearer to the roots of man. In his sculptures, volumes are revealed in an infinite movement due to their formal values always different. Art also vibrates in the tridimensional creation like a magic-pictorial language.

Among the multiples recognitions received during his vast and rich trajectory, we can remark the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of France (1994), the Five Continents Medal of the UNESCO (2009), and others. The famous creator Rogelio Martínez Fouré said once: “It is difficult to classify into a school or tendency a piece of Mendive. He is neither a symbolist nor a primitive, in the European sense. More than a painter; he is a creator, a word that permits to include the painter, the draftsman, the sculptor, the installer, the engraver, the muralist, the scenographer, the designer and the artist of the performance that Mendive is”. While the critic Israel Castellanos expressed: “Creator of a very personal universe and style; inhabited by orishas, deities merged with nature; and illuminated by a generous imagination, Mendive is a sort of a representational god that in a way has received the signals left by those two great figures of the so called Afro-Cuban art: Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982) and Roberto Diago (1920-1957)”.

Toni Piñera
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Journalist for more than 30 years at the Granma newspaper, art and dance critic, professor at the National Academy of Fine Arts San Alejandro, curator of Cuban art exhibitions (former director of the La Acacia gallery, Havana), poet.

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