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LAM Wifredo
(1902-1982)
"With all my energy I sought to paint the drama of my country,
but most of all to lend expression to the spirit of
Negro man, the beauty of Negro plastic art"
Wifredo LAM - Detailed biography

 

Wilfredo Lam was born in 1902 in Sagua la Grande, Cuba. From 1918 to 1923, he attended the Art School of Havannah before leaving his country for Spain and entering the Art School of Madrid, where he worked in the atelier of the painter Fernando Alvarez de Sotomayor. His first personal exposition took place in 1928. Wilfred Lam’s work finds its origin in the artist’s diverse heritage (China, Africa, Antilles). The artist was most notably inspired by Africans who brought their primitive culture, their magic religion, and their sense of mysticism and connection to nature with them to Cuba.

During the Spanish Civil War in 1937, Wilfredo Lam was obliged to seek refuge in France. There, he met Picasso, who helped him find his place within the Paris art scene and introduced him to his friends (Michel Leiris, Paul Eluard, Tristan Tzara, Lietger, Braque, Miro, Christian Zervos, Matisse, etc.). In 1939, Lam met Benjamin Peret, and joined André Breton and the Surrealist movement. He began to paint draw, and engrave imaginary worlds that he created within a state of automatism and free thought.  Lam often worked in series. In 1941 he undertook, in the company of a group of surrealist artists, a voyage to his birth country.  At this time, Lam’s painting gave birth to human an animal forms that he introduced in exuberant environments. Continuing to maintain tight relations in the realm of Cuban art, all throughout the 50s Lam took to working closely with the group Cobra and the Italian avant-garde. He equally joined other post-war artistic movements, such as the movement “Phases” and the Situationists.

In 1954, Lam met the poets Gherasim Luca and Alain Jouffroy. He then went to Italy, to Albissola, where under the initiative of Asger Jorn and Edouard Jaguer, he helped organize an international sculpture and ceramics artists’ meeting, where participate artists such as Appel, Baj, Corneille, Dangelo, Fontana, Scanavino, and Matta.

Later, Lam styled his figures into kinds of totem-subjects, as an intimate confession of his existence. He also produced an important body of graphic work (lithographs and engravings), as well as illustrations for numerous texts, mural frescos, ceramics, and terracotta.