Abelito (Abel Pérez Mainegra)
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Abelito (b. Trinidad, c. 1905)

Abel Pérez Mainegra, known as "Abelito," identifies himself as a "pintor primitivo." "Primitive," politically incorrect in our own vocabularies, is replaced with "autodidactic" or, even worse, in my thinking "outsider." Outside of what? Outside academic artistic practice certainly, and for that reason, often free of standards that may not always be liberating. The real appeal of the work is its vitality. It is exuberant, first the animation of its surfaces. Abelito fills every space with dots or hot colors, words or flags. The blood spattered deck of a ship fuses with cannon balls against the sea in a battle between pirates and Spaniards. It is distinct from modernism in its persistent emphasis on the figure and story telling. Abelito is a history painter. He records and celebrates the whole bloody chronicle of Cuba's epochs of slavery, wars, exploitation, revolution, and player in world events. He memorializes the heroes of the Cuban Wars of Independence, with Antonio Maceo most prominent, his hair bristling and his moustache curling to echo a grimace. He depicts the massacres of the indigenous peoples. He records current events up to the minute. There is even commentary on the Elian incident and the US presidential election. Abelito paints in the house, one front bedroom stacked with works. A nephew is also a painter and another a musician. Abelito remains close to home but the work travels. It has been shown in five foreign countries. He has had more than 45 exhibitions since 1991.

Click here for information regarding Abelito's exhibition at Gallery 106.

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