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Bending the Grid: Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art to open exhibition by Luis Cruz Azaceta
Luis Cruz Azaceta, Pinata, 2009. 96 x 122. Acrylic, charcoal, shellac on canvas.

NEWARK, NJ.- Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art will present Bending the Grid. Luis Cruz Azaceta: Dictators, Terrorism, War and Exiles, a major survey exhibition of paintings by a leading Cuban-American artist exploring political and social issues within the possibilities of formal experimentation. A profound Expressionist painter, Cruz Azaceta utilizes a humanist narrative to share stories and experiences related to themes concerning war, alienation and isolation.

Luis Cruz Azaceta was born in Havana, Cuba. As a teenager, he witnessed many acts of violence on the streets of Havana which created within him a sensitivity towards violence, human cruelty, injustice and alienation—later these became central themes in his work. At 18 years old, Cruz Azaceta left Cuba for New Jersey then, New York City. In 1969 he graduated from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Cruz Azaceta’s “apocalyptic pop” style characterized his initial entry into the art world. By the end of the 1970s Cruz Azaceta was working in a highly personal vocabulary that synthesized bold colors and thick outlines. Today he is considered one of the great expressionists, utilizing the art form as a social and moral force.

“This exhibition has gathered 29 works by Cruz Azaceta that obsessively explores his most constant themes of dictators, terrorism, war and exiles, ranging chronologically from 1980 to the present. To paraphrase the late art critic Robert Hughes on Goya, Cruz Azaceta successfully makes an eloquent and morally urgent art out of human disaster,” says Dr. Alejandro Anreus. “He belongs to the family of artists that consists of Goya, Max Beckmann and José Clemente Orozco—brutal truth tellers that hold up a cracked mirror to society, while standing with a humanity that must prevail.”

“Stylistically, Cruz Azaceta’ s early work reflected a colorful, Pop-art-like tendency in depicting everyday environments charged with violence. By the early 1980s he had consolidated a pictorial language, where a colorful and harsh figuration utilized his self-portrait, not as a narcissistic statement but rather as a stand-in for a humanity suffering through the travails of persecution and oppression,” explains Anreus. “Since then, his style has continued to shift and grow, always discarding mannered repetition in favor of audacious experimentation. What remains consistent is his vision as an engaged, humanist artist, who gives witness to the underdog.”

Inaugurated in 2003, Bending the Grid is a series which celebrates the successful careers of outstanding yet under-recognized national and international artists over the age of 65. Although the work of the featured artists often is grounded in formal concerns, the series focuses on the way each individual artist subverts or adapts these traditions to his or her own purpose. Artists included in the Bending the Grid series to date are Frank Bowling, Judith K. Brodsky, Donald Locke, Miriam Beerman and Helen M. Stummer.

Bending the Grid. Luis Cruz Azaceta: Dictators, Terrorism, War and Exiles is documented by an extensive, illustrated catalog, including an essay by the curator available for purchase at Aljira. The exhibition will be on view at Aljira through April 26, 2014 and will travel to museums nationally in 2014–2015.

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