José Garcia Montebravo: Cuban Self-Taught Painter

October 6, 2006 to November 3, 2006

PHILADELPHIA - Marking its 20th year of exhibiting international folk and contemporary art in Philadelphia, Indigo Arts Gallery offers two shows featuring the arts of Latin America: José Garcia Montebravo: Cuban Self-taught Painter and Prints from Oaxaca: Masters of the Mexican Tradition.

The first exhibit focuses on the visionary work of self-taught Cuban artist José Garcia Montebravo. The second includes aquatints, lithographs, serigraphs, woodcuts and linoprints by artists from Oaxaca, Mexico, including Modesto Bernardo, Enrique Flores, Abelardo Lopez, Eddie Martinez, Leovigildo Martinez, Lorena Montes, Felipe Morales, Fernando Olivera, and the late master, Rodolfo Morales.

Indigo Arts is a community partner for the two fall shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Tesoros/Treasures/Tesouros: The Arts of Latin America, 1492-1820, and Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920-1950.

José Garcia Montebravo was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba on October 15, 1953. A self-taught artist, Montebravo received a college degree in geography and taught in secondary schools for 19 years before begining to paint seriously in 1980. He had his first solo exhibition in 1984. He still lives in the town of Cienfuegos, where he is a leading member of the art community.

Montebravo is best known for his powerful images of Afro-Cuban infantas or princesses. In a witty play on the court portraits of Velasquez as well as the Latin American“santo” icon tradition, Montebravo’s infantas are unmistakably Afro-Cuban women who carry the attributes of the Santeria deities or orishas to which they are devoted. His “Infanta con Pez” holds a fish and wears blue in reference to the orisha of the sea, Yemanja, or the “Infanta con hacha”, dressed in red wields a stone club, in honor of Shango/Santa Barbara. His paintings depict birds, animals and the lush Cuban plant life with a strength which suggests an allegorical or religious symbolism. Concurrent with his infanta portraits, Montebravo has worked on two extensive series of mixed media works on paper he calls “Escenas Fantasticas” (Fantastic Scenes) and more recently a series of “Espacios Transitados” (Transitional Spaces).
In an article on Montebravo in the Folk Art Messenger (Winter/Spring 2001), art historian Joan C. Pearlman (New School University, NY) wrote, “His most recent works move into fantasies where people and animals are blended with circus and folkloric elements. He includes motifs from nature in the form of lizards, fresh water tortoises, roosters, the moon and other Afro-Cuban symbols to draw the viewer into his mesmerizing realm..”
Montebravo has exhibited extensively, with many solo shows and more than 200 group shows, in Europe and the United States as well as in Cuba. He came to New York in 2000 and 2002 for solo shows at the Cuban Art Space. Montebravo’s work has been featured in five previous group shows of Cuban art at Indigo Arts since 1999. Indigo Arts co-owner Tony Fisher had the privilege of visiting Montebravo in his Cienfuegos, Cuba studio on three occasions, and in July 2002 the artist visited Philadelphia for a reception and solo show at Indigo Arts Gallery.
Due to the current United States’ policy toward Cuba Mr. Montebravo has not been allowed to visit this country again nor, since November 2003, have Indigo Arts’ owners been permitted to travel to Cuba to visit him or any of their other artists there.

Imagene en Amarillo
SKU: JGM-0016

(Cienfuegos, Cuba),
Acrylic on Canvas (14" x 12 1/2"), 2000
ex. Private collection, Indigo Arts Gallery

Price on Request
José Garcia Montebravo

(Cienfuegos, Cuba),
Oil on Canvas
(18" x 23 3/4"), 2008

Price on Request
José Garcia Montebravo

(Cienfuegos, Cuba),
Oil on canvas
(31 1/2" x 23 1/2"), 2009

Price on Request