Agustín Cárdenas Cuba, 1927-2001


Agustín Cárdenas (b. 1927, Matanzas, Cuba; d. 2001, Havana, Cuba) arrived in Paris in 1955, where he subsequently joined the Surrealist group. André Breton, the leader of the movement, championed Cárdenas early on, acquiring the artist’s work and organizing the first Parisian exhibition of his sculpture in 1959. Cárdenas frequently selected materials with the aim of maximizing incandescence. Working initially with wood, he produced large totemic sculptures using tropical wood as black as ebony, sometimes even burning the wood to imbue it with the radiance of the purest blacks. He then shifted focus in the 1960s and 1970s to the luminosity of polished hard stones like black granite and marble, using these materials to explore his developing interest in germinative forms. Cárdenas cultivated an international career working in France, Canada, Austria, Japan, Israel, and Korea, and later went on to enjoy critical success during his lifetime, becoming a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, a Knight of the Legion of Honor, and a recipient of the William and Norma Copley award. Throughout his career, Cárdenas participated in over one hundred group exhibitions and was the subject of approximately forty monographic exhibitions.