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Pepe Betancourt's Tales do Not Last Until Winter/Acrylic on canvas

Solo Show
Williams Carmona

ArtNexus #40 - Arte en Colombia #86
May - Jul 2001

New York, NY
Galería Praxis

Manuel Álvarez Lezama

Galeria Praxis

The work of this Cuban painter who has lived in Puerto Rico since 1992, has shown a huge enthusiasm for life and its miracles, but also a terrible pain for the contradictions and injustices that mark each day of our existence. The faces we see in his recent paintings—either the large-size protagonists or the tiny but magical icons—are framed not only in Greek epic and tragedy, but also in the dazzling soap operas (or culebrones) intruding in our lives. His topographies, so lonely and bitter at times, make us understand that life’s made out of exceptions, and that real communion happens very rarely. I portray life on the abyss, that which happens to us between flight and fall. I paint the tiny, beautiful, and brutal verses making our path, the mirrors that define us, and where many times we fail to recognize ourselves. I build odes and boleros. I invent the past, the present, the future. The trip is short and we must live it intensely.
Although there are lovers of Latin American art who think that the work Carmona made in the early 1990’s—a powerful oeuvre well within expressionism/ new figuration—is better than what he is doing today. There is no doubt that in a short period of time this daring artist has become one the most important painters in Latin American surrealism. He skillfully combines the surrealist canon, from Bosch and Dalí to Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, and incorporates a provocative sociopolitical gaze, which in turn combines Cuban picaresque with a deep knowledge of art history in general and Cuban art history in particular. During the last five years, Carmona has been able to create a fascinating universe where anything’s possible and allowed, from Renaissance faces to the controversial Elián González, from Elegguá and other elements of Cuban Santería to a critical gaze at postmodern existentialism.
Two recent exhibitions—one at Galería Praxis in New York, titled Salta Pa’arriba Y No Mires Pa’tras (Jump and Don’t Look Back); and the other at Art Miami this past January— have made the public realize that they’re before an impassioned surrealist (who really lives Caribbean surrealism) who has been able to establish a powerful, provocative, and attractive discourse challenging us to become co-authors and/or accomplices of whatever happens or doesn’t happen in each of his phenomenal sceneries. There is no doubt—and the artist admits it openly—that his work is still strongly marked by the great surrealists, from Dalí to Fabelo, his Cuban teacher, and that he has no ethical problem whatsoever with an intelligent appropriation of images. This talented artist, a graduate from the prestigious Instituto Superior del Arte in Cuba, has taught us what surrealism is inside the globalization process. Carmona, whom I see as a citizen of confusion caused by postmodernity (he, who hates definitions!), utilizes surrealism so we can begin to understand and embrace reality as we have had to live it after WWII, but more so at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, where the motto, for good or bad, is: anything goes.
By combining his rich imagination with a complex process of appropriation
“I need to revive these characters.” the artist tells us—Carmona blends Caribbean idiosyncrasies (our eternal carnival: the carnival of passions and agonies), and Latin American baroque to create extraordinary contemporary mirrors, in which appear the small, everyday needs to the big dreams that have kept us alive and go beyond the one hundred years of solitude that we have condemned ourselves with. Undoubtedly, Carmona is a great chronicler of our times. Seen as a group, his work can be “read’ as a great epic, where death and immortality kiss passionately.

Manuel Alvarez Lezama



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