Miami, April 19, 2022 – Miami Dade College’s (MDC) Cuban Legacy Gallery, in collaboration with the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, will present Baruj Salinas: 1972–2022, a thematic survey of the acclaimed Miami-based Cuban American painter’s abstract work that spans a half century of his artistic career. The exhibition will be on view from May 14 until August 14, 2022, with a public program on May 22.

Salinas had trained and worked as an architect, but has created abstract works in a gestural, expressionist style since the early 1960s. Influenced by philosophy, music, and literature, he has also explored a lifelong interest in cosmology in his art. By the early 1970s, he had begun engaging themes of origins—of life or of the universe—on both microcosmic and macrocosmic scales. Living in Barcelona during the 1970s, he associated with Spanish painters, including Joan Miró and Antoni Tàpies, and in 1977 embarked upon a large series of works based on clouds. Works from El lenguaje de las nubes (The Language of the Clouds) from 1979–80 evince the artist’s introduction into his work of expansive areas of white, which often represents a multivalent emptiness, and the appearance of words and letters in various real or imagined alphabets. Salinas has continued to employ both of these devices and address the subject of clouds in works made since.

Increasingly during the twenty-first century, Salinas has pictured oceans, both primordial and apocalyptic, envisioning water’s role in alternating acts of creation and destruction. The oceans also refer to a lifetime’s experience of living adjacent to various seas, especially his early years growing up on the island of Cuba, which he was forced to leave. Between 2003 and 2008, Salinas painted the series Claros del bosque (Clearings in the Forest), inspired by a book of the same title by his friend, the Spanish writer and philosopher María Zambrano, as well as by an actual forest that she had loved and remembered during her own exile. The artist’s 2015 Torah Project included images that evoke the Hebrew Bible’s account of the creation of the cosmos and other foundational stories and resulted in an editioned illustrated Pentateuch in 2017. In all of Salinas’s abstractions, whether imagining landscapes, seas, skies, or cosmic space, he continually attempts to give shape to the formation of the universe, combining a vision of elemental flux and transformation with the traces of ancient alphabets or an imaginary language.

“The ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosophers searched for the beginnings of the universe in the elements and their properties,” notes the exhibition’s curator Adriana Herrera. “Baruj Salinas endeavored to rediscover the origin of creative matter through painting, exploring the aesthetic potential of water, air, fire, and telluric forces.”

Baruj Salinas: 1972–2022 features 40 works and includes paintings, works on paper, glazed ceramics, and an artist’s book. The works are borrowed from Miami collections, including that of the Cintas Foundation. The exhibition is organized into four thematic sections: Cosmogonies, Inhabitant of the Clouds, Forests and Telluric Forces, and The Torah Project. A brochure with an essay by guest curator Adriana Herrera accompanies the exhibition. A public program, featuring a conversation between Baruj Salinas and Adriana Herrera will take place at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora on Sunday, May 22, 2022.

Baruj Salinas was born in 1935 in Havana, Cuba, and received a degree in Architecture from Kent State University in Ohio in 1958. He was exiled from Cuba in 1959, and in Miami during the 1960s, he co-founded the Grupo de Artistas Latinoamericanos (GALA) with other abstract artists, including Rafael Soriano and José Mijares. He was awarded the Cintas Foundation Fellowship in Visual Arts in 1969 and 1970, and moved to Barcelona, Spain, in 1974. Salinas began exhibiting in the United States at galleries in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Detroit, as well as in Spain, Mexico, Israel, and Switzerland. He held exhibitions of his paintings at Galerie Editart in Geneva, where he also began collaborating with poets and philosophers such as José Ángel Valente and María Zambrano on interdisciplinary artist books. These experiences influenced the incorporation of ancestral and unknown alphabets in his cosmic-themed abstractions. One-person exhibitions of his work were held at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, Florida, in 1969; Palacio de Bellas Artes, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, in Mexico City in 1971; Galería Joan Prats in Barcelona, Spain, in 1982; Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City in 1982; Museo Rayo in Roldanillo, Colombia, in 1992; Museum Villa du Parc in Annemasse, France, in 1993; Fundación María Zambrano in Vélez-Málaga, Spain, in 1997; Centro Cultural Español Miami, in Coral Gables, Florida, in 2003; The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS), University of Miami, in 2007; and Salas del Centro Cultural Provincial Diputación de Málaga, Spain, in 2007. He was awarded the Amelia Peláez Prize in 2021. Salinas has lived in Miami since 1992 and taught at Miami Dade College since 1995.

Baruj Salinas: 1972–2022 is curated by Miami-based independent scholar Adriana Herrera. In 2011, she cofounded the Aluna Art Foundation and the Aluna Curatorial Collective, dedicated to furthering the understanding of Latin American artists and their contributions to fields such as geometric abstraction and sound art. Her exhibition and accompanying catalogue Women Geometers (Miami: Piero Atchugarry Gallery, 2019) assembled the work of 12 pioneers of geometric abstraction in Latin America. She has explored Latin American contribution to fiber art in exhibitions that include America Weaves at the Coral Gables Museum in 2019, and has co-curated exhibitions of Salvadorian, Cuban and Brazilian art. In 2021, she completed a book on the graphic work of Mercedes Otero (1938–2012), forthcoming from the Otero Pardo Foundation, as well as the catalogue for the exhibition Ronald Moran: Por encima del jardín, to be published by the Museo MARTE in San Salvador.

Baruj Salinas: 1972–2022 is produced by the Cuban Legacy Gallery, MDC Special Collections at Miami Dade College, in collaboration with the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora. Exhibitions of the Cuban Legacy Gallery are made possible by the generous support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture. Programs of the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora are made possible by the generous support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners. MDC Special Collections wishes to thank Carmen Valdivia, Marcell Felipe, and Jesus Rosado of the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora for their generous collaboration in making this exhibition possible.

Housed at the College’s National Historic Landmark Freedom Tower, the Cuban Legacy Gallery is part of MDC Special Collections, which also include the Kislak Center. MDC Special Collections celebrate the communities of South Florida and promote fresh perspectives on the ongoing processes of culture and change in the Americas. The Cuban Legacy Gallery honors the Cuban exile experience and the Freedom Tower’s significant role as “El Refugio,” a welcoming place for the early Cuban exile community during the 1960s. Tens of thousands of Cubans passed through this building when the federal government used it as a center to process, document, and provide medical and social services for the new arrivals.

WHAT:              Baruj Salinas: 1972–2022

WHEN:             May 14–August 14, 2022

Public program: Sunday, May 22, 2022

WHERE:          American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora

1200 Coral Way

Miami, FL 33145

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