The Farber Collection
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Tomás Sánchez

About Tomás Sánchez

b. 1948, resides in Costa Rica

Closer to the paintings of the Hudson River School than to the technological avant-garde, Tomás Sánchez’s imaginary landscapes do not bear the labels of rebellion, irony, postmodernism, or kitsch imposed by American academics on the recent artistic fruits of the island. Through Sánchez’s work we arrive at a utopian space where anguish and politics, the unavoidable disorders of our times, have been miraculously excommunicated.

A student of Antonia Eiriz at the National School of Art (ENA), since his graduation in 1971 Sánchez has pursued an expressionist figurative style, in which the ambience of Cuba’s traditional rural hamlets is transmuted into a gritty vision of existence and the miseries of the human condition. In 1974, his discovery of the American hyperrealist movement, the work of Andrew Wyeth, and the Russian realism of Levitan and Shishkin drove him to create landscapes reflecting a realist aesthetic. Within this framework, he joined artists such as Flavio Garciandía, Eduardo Rubén, Gory (Rogelio López Marín), Nélida López, and Aldo Menéndez, whose warm, optimistic vision of hyperrealism served as a bridge toward the formal and conceptual innovations that later emerged in Cuban art.

After receiving the 19th International Joan Miró Drawing Award in 1980, Sánchez participated in the “founding act” of Volumen I (Volume One), the influential 1981 exhibition which laid the foundation for the art that followed. By 1982, when the Ministry of Culture organized the first Landscape Salon, Sánchez’s images were perceived—along with the works of Bedia, Fors, Grupo Hexágono (Hexagon Group), and Gustavo Acosta, among others—as the revitalization of a genre.

Enriched by a personal world view, Sánchez’s works embodied a realism unburdened by formulaic academicism, “with which I could create the illusion of three-dimensional space, and an atmosphere that would induce intimate, subjective emotions in the viewer: a subjective realism, in other words, reality filtered by my individuality” (Hernández, 1985, 38).  His landscapes of the early 1980s reflect two other approaches as well: a baroque, somber style, as in his depictions of garbage dumps, and what has been defined as a “landscape of synthesis”—islands, shores, and floods. Above all, Sánchez emphasized the archipelago’s immeasurable liquid element: the vastness of territories flooded by tropical hurricanes, the confluence of the rivers and the sea, the islands beyond the horizon, and the immensity of natural spaces, depicted from an elevated point of view that facilitates sensory and contemplative immersion.

In January 1985, when the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana exhibited more than a hundred of his engravings, drawings, and paintings, Sánchez received definitive recognition. But creative endeavors such as his were implicitly placed in question by the cultural dynamics of the late 1980s. The art of that moment challenged the style, the impeccable craftsmanship, and the contemplative point of view inherent in Sánchez’s work, favoring instead group collaboration, a conceptual approach, or an assertive brushstroke. This critical attitude was directed not only toward stereotypes and defects in the social utopia, but also toward the destruction of “useless” genres.

The following decade transformed Sánchez’s work into a legacy and a canon. In a time characterized by the return to technique and craft, renunciation of the utopian spirit of social renewal in favor of ambiguous dissonance, the fracturing and juxtaposition of historical eras, and the rescue of traditional genres under the ever-present pressure of the art market, Sánchez’s oeuvre was perceived as a “landscape after the battle,” in which the aesthetic paradigms of style, authorship, and skill stood tall. The practice of landscape painting revived, multiplied by the hands of imitators and long-distance disciples. Despite these circumstances, inevitable for all those who shine with their own light, the island’s artistic community recognizes Sánchez’s worth and awaits a public re-encounter in Havana.

—Abelardo Mena Chicuri