What Made Mariano Rodríguez’ Art Uniquely Cuban

A mid-century modernist and native son elevated ordinary Cuban life

Mujer con gallo (Woman With Rooster), 1941.
Mujer con gallo (Woman With Rooster), 1941. Collection Silvia & Emilio M. Ortiz. © Fundación Mariano Rodríguez.

As a young man, Havana-born Mariano Rodríguez (1912-1990) honed his painting technique in Mexico City and New York, influenced by giants like Diego Rivera and Paul Cézanne. Still, it was always Cuba that spurred his imagination, and he used international art styles, from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism, to explore everyday island motifs—fruit and flowers, fishing boats, villagers—and create a sophisticated visual language that was uniquely Cuban. Mariano, as he preferred to be known, led a generation of artists “who were interested in constructing Cuban national identity,” says Iberia Pérez González, a curator at Miami’s Pérez Art Museum, which in August will host the first-ever retrospective of Mariano’s work in the States. Now, Pérez González says, a new generation will have a chance to be inspired by the sights that captivated Mariano. “It is Cuba that attracts me,” he once said. “The Cuba of Light, baroque form and color that I desire.”

Woman With Rooster
Woman With Rooster (1941). A common motif in Mariano's works, roosters are both a symbol of virility and a familiar sight in Cuban towns.   Collection Nercys & Ramón Cernuda. © Fundación Mariano Rodríguez.
Pescador (Fisherman), 1955.
Pescador (Fisherman), 1955. Collection Fundación Mariano Rodríguez. © Fundación Mariano Rodríguez.

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