With an intriguing and unique body of work that finds its early roots in Cuba and a transformative influence abroad, Agustín Fernández (b. 1928, Havana; d. 2006, New York) is a major figure among Cuban artists and within the international modernist movement that contextualizes his work.
Although he did not consider himself a Surrealist or a strictly erotic painter, Fernández developed a distinctive pictorial practice that explored the relationships between eroticism and violence, human anatomy and machinery, unconscious yearnings and obsessions, and planarity and volume, among other subjects. “My characteristic images and themes are objects from an unreal world of aggression and conflict, in which mechanical parts appear together with anatomical ones, under the surgeon’s scalpel, under the introspection of a curious mind, and in certain tormented zones,” he said.
“Agustín Fernández: Armaduras” will focus on a series of paintings Fernández produced in the early 1970s alongside related drawings and collages. Known collectively as the “Armadura Series” (“Armor Series”), these paintings employ black heraldic forms and draw a link between shapes that can be associated to Medieval life and mysticism and suggestive anatomical references that relate to contemporary erotic practices. While never giving up on figuration altogether, Fernández’s iconography is endowed with an uncanny referential dimension that prevents it from being defined by first impressions or art historical precedent. Instead, his imagery links eroticism and violence in such a way as to speak to the very power of pictorial forms to impinge on the common-sense structures of everyday life.
Fernández studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro, Havana (1944–46), venturing abroad for courses at the Art Students League of New York and Madrid’s Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. He left Cuba permanently in 1959 and lived in Paris (1959–68); San Juan (1968–72); and New York (1972–2006). During his lifetime Fernández held more than thirty solo exhibitions and participated in over one hundred group shows at major galleries and museums internationally. In 1992 the Art Museum at Florida International University, Miami (now the Frost Art Museum), organized a major retrospective of his work. Fernández is represented in multiple museum collections around the world, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana; and the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, among others.
Agustín Fernández: Armaduras
On View at Ground Floor / Janice and Alan Lipton Gallery