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Almine Rech

Agustín Cárdenas

Jun 5 — Jul 28, 2018 | London

1955 saw France enter a new age. The SNCF set a new world record for electric train speed (331km/h) and the Citroën DS was launched at the Paris motor show. That year marked the end of the allied occupation of West Germany and the restoration of Austrian sovereignty. In the arts, Vladimir Nabakov’s Lolita was published in Paris by the Olympia Press and Notre Dame du Haut, a masterpiece of Le Corbusier’s late style, was dedicated in Ronchamp. And, towards the year’s end, the twenty-eight-year-old Cuban sculptor Agustín Cárdenas arrived in France on a scholarship, settling in Montparnasse, which had made itself the headquarters of the artistic avant-garde during the 1920s and 30s.

Cárdenas was born in 1927 in the port town of Mantanzas, on Cuba’s northern shoreline. During the early nineteenth century, the region had been a major centre for the sugar industry and consequently a significant destination for African slaves: by the middle of the nineteenth century slaves constituted more than 60 percent of the population. As a result of this process of forced migration, Mantanzas went on to emerge as a centre of Afro–Cuban culture (dance music such as the rumba, for example, which fuses African and Spanish influences, is generally said to have originated from the region). Cárdenas traces his own ancestry to slaves from Senegal and the Congo. The son of a renowned tailor, he studied art at Havana’s Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro, the oldest fine-art school in Latin America (founded in 1818 by the French painter Jean-Baptiste Vermay). Having enrolled at the age of sixteen, he studied under the celebrated Cuban sculptor Juan José Sicre, who, having trained in Madrid, had done much to bring the European modern style to Cuba, and graduated in 1949. In 1955 Cárdenas had a solo exhibition at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Havana, before departing for France at Christmas, a little short of one year before the exiled Fidel Castro returned to Cuba to begin the final phase of his revolution against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista

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Selected artworks

  • Agustín Cárdenas,                                      La Fiancée du Cheval, 1984

    Agustín Cárdenas La Fiancée du Cheval, 1984

    88 x 33 x 28 cm
    34 5/8 x 13 x 11 inches
    AP 2 of 2 from an edition of 6

  • Agustín Cárdenas,                                      Mon Ombre après Minuit, 1963

    Agustín Cárdenas Mon Ombre après Minuit, 1963

    243 x 77 x 47 cm
    95 5/8 x 30 3/8 x 18 1/2 in
    Edition 1 of 3

  • Agustín Cárdenas,                                      La Femme au Chewing Gum, 1950

    Agustín Cárdenas La Femme au Chewing Gum, 1950

    38 x 12 x 11 cm
    15 x 4 3/4 x 4 3/8 inches
    Edition 5 of 6

  • Agustín Cárdenas,                                      Forme Allongée, 1991

    Agustín Cárdenas Forme Allongée, 1991

    White Marble
    24 x 55 x 24 cm
    9 1/2 x 21 5/8 x 9 1/2 in

  • Agustín Cárdenas,                                      La Negra, 1947

    Agustín Cárdenas La Negra, 1947

    19 x 19 x 12 cm
    7 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches
    Edition 4 of 6

  • Agustín Cárdenas,                                      Le Petit Cheval, 1984

    Agustín Cárdenas Le Petit Cheval, 1984

    32 x 47 x 16 cm
    AP 2 of 2 from an edition of 6

  • Agustín Cárdenas,                                      Le Repos, 1975-1997

    Agustín Cárdenas Le Repos, 1975-1997

    118 x 188 x 115 cm
    46 1/2 x 74 x 45 1/4 in
    Edition 4 of 5

  • Agustín Cárdenas,                                      Geod, 1977

    Agustín Cárdenas Geod, 1977

    55 x 19,5 x 14 cm
    21 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 5 1/2 inches

  • Agustín Cárdenas,                                      Cuarto Famba, 1973

    Agustín Cárdenas Cuarto Famba, 1973

    Burnt Wood
    123 x 35 x 35 cm
    48 3/8 x 13 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches