Born in Pinar del Río, Cuba, May 1st 1974, Second son of a Baptist church pastor moved to the city of Habana in 1975. At an early age he became passionate about painting. His mother wanted him to become a musician and enrolled him in piano lessons in “Seminario Bautista de La Habana”. As a teenager he tried to study in the academy of art San Alejandro at La Habana, but unfortunately he failed to pass the drawing exams to become a student of the prestigious academy of art. A year passed and through some of his friends that studied in the National School of Art, he starts receiving painting, drawing, design and ceramic classes to obtain a higher level of preparation for the upcoming test. He starts art classes in ENA(National School of Arts), and moved by his faith; he begins to preach the word of God to his classmates along with his friends. Abisay projected a movie about the life of Jesus Christ on a big theatrical screen in the backyard of the school. This action brought him problems with the school’s directors. They prohibited all Christian students to talk about their faith with anyone, and they weren’t allowed to bring bibles or anything related to their beliefs. One day Abisay wore a shirt that said in front “Sonríe Jesús te Ama” (Smile Jesus Loves you). This brought rage to the school’s directors and he was terminated from the school; he was also threatened that if he lay a single foot in the school again, he was going to be taken by the police. Abisay, crying, at on the sidewalk in front of the school and made a promise. He was never going to try to study again in a communist school, where he could not be who he really was, express his beliefs and the essence of his being.
He kept studying on his own by reading books and doing research, until he encountered a professor of art philosophy and history, Juan Enrique Guerrero. This teacher instructed Abisay on how to elaborate a piece of work pictorially, musically and poetically by making him feel that in each visual artist there is a musician and a poet as well. That all these things tie together to convey a successful and powerful message. This encouraged Abisay to start his first series called “The Apocalypse of Abisay” in 1998 winning two drawing awards. Then he started his second series called “Lamentations of Abisay” a series that he is still working on today. His work in Cuba was generally unwanted, although he was able to exhibit in some galleries, thanks to the help of great people he met along the way.
In 2004 Abisay decides not to exhibit in Cuba and turn his energy and strength towards studying musical theory, composing and orchestral conducting. In the summer of 2010 Abisay comes to the United States as a political refugee, he is currently living in the city of Syracuse, New York State where he continues painting and pursuing his dream as an artist .
For Puentes, painting is primary in the seeking of understanding what is beyond the everyday. Ideas and questions about why humans continue to hurt each other across time and place emerge in the painterly process. Graduations and transitions of rich and deep colors and a purposeful distortion of human forms evoke the anxiety of transcendence and unresolved conflict. For Puentes, there is a recall of personally experienced lack of freedom of expression. There is always the seeking of understanding why humans hurt others in his creative process. The tools, materials, techniques of painting are primary parts of his expressive journey. Transcendence is core to the meaning and images.
Exaggerated but realistic human figures speak to us through which personal language of skin bathed in contrasting light and pierced with incoming and exiting pain and conflict. Distant light and deep rich tones transfer our view from our present to a time and place in the image. Color is a powerful visual language tool in the storytelling images across his series where the endless tragedy of the human experience advances, recedes, never resolves and carry us to what might be next. The blurred edges of actuality and perception appear as real. There are no visual clues through juxtaposition or geometric dissection and abstraction.
The 15th century Europe extremes of social upheaval hate, hurt, emotions and failure to resolve social and religious conflicts emerged as images by the New-Expressionists to boldly speak of the inner and outer violence, and the unpleasant. The artists sought to depict the subjective emotions and arouse emotions within the viewers of their art. The exaggeration and distorted human forms caused us to see the conflict of the time in new ways instead of the ideals. Stirring emotions of unresolved conflicts was a goal of the artisans of the Neo-Expressionist and Expressionist periods.
Expressionism began in Germany in the 20th century as a response by artists to the increasing discordant relationship within their world. Expressionism’s classic period was 1905- 1920 and spread across all of Europe and America. People lost touch with, and feelings in, spirituality. It was the symbolist currents in the art of Vincent Van Gogh and Edward Munch that greatly impacted Expressionism. It was James Ensor that most influenced visual art with his distortion of forms visualized through powerful colors in his paintings. They expressed and conveyed anxiety, lack of resolution and the continually seeking understanding. The early 20th century Expressionist style of images significantly influenced artists of the 1980’s and is appearing again in the early part of 21st century. Perhaps it is because Expressionism expects the artist to reveal in images their personal meaning from deep within the self. The revelation of the artists’ feelings, social commentary and emotions are primary. Through the art making process, the art and artist presented becomes a powerful face of social criticism.
In 2010 Abisay Puentes immigrated to the USA from Cuba with his family to open the door to freedom and personal determination. That includes his studio in Syracuse, New York. From early childhood to present his images are powerful portrayals of events and human conditions that he lived and of social concerns for which he seeks understanding. The distorted human forms and rich colors in dynamic transitions define his personal style and visual language. Transcendence is the core of his meanings and images. Impossible and Possible are obvious scenarios in cyclic patterns across his series, asking why do we continue to hurt each other?
Educated as a child to become a musician at Seminario Batista de La Habana, he rejected music in favor for visual art. He attended the prestigious San Alejandra Art Academy. Successful study at the National Academy of Art met direct opposition to his religious devotions. Forced dismissal under the anti-religious government laws ended his formal training. He continued on his own to evolve a personal style while studying museum collections of paintings. From this study and dedication, to study work, comes the series The Apocalypse of Abisay, Lamentations of Abisay and Imposibilitados. With time the paintings are growing scale, the seeking is advancing in more complex stories hinting at understanding. His rich visual language advances into varied tones and hues, new pigments and more diverse perspectives and settings. The lush and rich painterly marks deliver more perceived and actual textures. Orchestrated music returns to his personal creative process and relate to paintings to engage the viewers to see and feel the pains, concerns, and emotions of life. Poetic expression follows music, follows painting.
Barrett Art Gallery
Utica College, NY
Tel. (315) 741-5553
2014- Exhibit at La Casita Cultural Center Gallery, Syracuse NY, US.
2012- Exhibit at Ann Felton Multicultural Center; Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, NY, US.
2011- Exhibit at Lamar Dodd Art Center, entitled "Lamentations of Abisay" LaGrage, GA, US.
2006- Exhibit at Her-Car Gallery, Havana, Cuba
2002- Exhibit at Museo de la Ciudad, Havana, Cuba
2001- Exhibit at Hermanos Saiz Gallery, Havana, Cuba.
1999- Exhibit at HER-CAR Gallery, Havana, Cuba.
2017- Exhibit at Monmouth Museum of Art: "Hope for the Holidays" art show. N.J, US.
2017- Point of Contact Gallery, collaboration with Susan Stockwell in the project: Boite-En-Valise: Generate. Syracuse, NY, U.S.
2017- BAYart Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio, US.
2017- The Monmouth Museum of Art. New Jersey, U.S.
2016- Exhibit at Point of Contact Gallery: 40 Below’s Public Arts Task Force. Syracuse, NY, US.
2016- Exhibit at Dowling Art Center, Syracuse, NY, US.
2015- Exhibit at Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, NY, US.
2013- Exhibit at Edith Langley Barrett Art Gallery with Juan Cruz, Utica College, NY, US.
2012- Exhibit at the Biennial: TONY, the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY, US.
2012- Exhibit at Syracuse Stage, Syracuse, NY, US.
2011- Exhibit at “La Casita Cultural Center Gallery”, Syracuse, NY, US.
2004- Exhibit at “Origenes Gallery”, Havana, Cuba.
2003- Exhibit at “La Acacia Gallery”, Havana, Cuba
2003- Exhibit at “L Gallery”, Havana, Cuba
2001- Exhibition with “Proyecto Horizontal”, at “10 de Octubre Gallery”, Havana, Cuba.
2000- Exhibition with "Proyecto Horizontal", at "Morro Gallery", Havana, Cuba.
"Combate" at Her-Car gallery, Havana, Cuba (2003).
"Varadero" at UNEAC, Matanzas, Cuba. (2002)
"Combate" at "Her-Car Gallery ", Havana, Cuba (1998) and (2000).
-1st Place Artwork Award at “Tech Garden Gallery”, Syracuse, NY (2013)
-Award for 10 years making art, of La Acacia Gallery, at Carlos Enrique house: Museo Huron Azul, Havana, Cuba. (2007)
-Mention in the X Art Competition: "Mirta Cerra Gallery”, Havana, Cuba. (1998)
-1st Place Artwork Award: "Combate", at Her-Car Gallery, Havana, Cuba. (1998)
It is precisely in these concepts, as expressed by Kandinsky, that I have employed in developing the symbiotic aspects of my work. Evidently, artistic evolution since Kandinsky has continued from when he left us with these concepts. Contemporary Art has moved beyond Kandinsky’s legacy as it has departed from traditional conventions of artistic process and outcome. Despite such changes, the elemental spirituality of art does not change; and it is within the parameters of this conceptual structure that I create my work. In my artistic practice and intentionality, I seek to join the visual aspects of painting to the aural space of melody or pure sound in a manner that communicates this fusion.
All visual art can resonate with the spiritual in a manner that is intrinsically musical. This is even more possible today, as we live in an intellectual moment identified by Arthur Danto’s philosophy as the Post-Historic Period, in so referencing the end of traditional historical identification of “Art” or of a concept of art, which ruled on artistic definition since the Renaissance to identify or deny artistic actualization. Danto’s conceptualization of art maintained that art had entered a new phase of artistic utopia, wherein all is permitted in the name of art. Pure art as Form lost its significance, but the new significance or meaning of such art has not yet been identified. As an artist, with the ability to function within Danto’s description of artistic possibilities, I seek to describe what I identify as my artistic sensibility within my artistic sensibilities and the trajectory of what I identify as my artistic intentionality.
Lately, my work’s fusion of sound and sight combines the experience of both into one expressive format, which can be experienced separately or in a combination of listening to music joined to the visual perception of interaction with painting. The meaning of the experience is found within the spectator’s experience, as it is the audience that provides meaning through the aesthetic moment produced by my work. Visual images are static but music flows. Images are frozen in time but music cannot be detained and its ongoing development unfolds as time passes. In perceiving how these two aspects of artistic expression develop, someone immersed within this created world can create a mental history for the image seen, altered through the sound of the music that animates its spiritual existence. As such, the “history” or the image or its “story” is recounted by the space that exists separating the diverse realities of music and painting. Fused in my work, these two areas of perception – sound and sight - are united into a holistic experience that enmeshes the spectator in a world that is between their perception and my intention for the work’s performative display. Thus, I challenge audiences to interpret and absorb the intrinsic nature of the work they perceive, that is my creative process, and the extrinsic perception of it that is the result of the spectator’s experience. In so doing, my goal is to enmesh the spectator into the perceptual performativity of seeing and hearing within an altered state of existence that seeks to find a place between the material existence of painting, the sound of music and the spiritual with art.
The development of my expressive trajectory has taken 20 years to evolve to its current phase. My current work began with a series of drawings that I began, in 1997. Today, my work contains two kinds of space; one space is visual and the other is based on my interest in music. The forms of each of the modes of artistic expression that I employ in my work – music and painting – are not necessarily intrinsically linked – because “musical forms” and “pictorial forms” do not function on the same sensory level. Nonetheless, as content, within a given work, these elements can fuse and affect an audience’s perceptual sensibilities. Such a fusion of sound and image was found in the history of film in silent movies. In this sense, such films were mute but not deaf.
As I have explored the fusion between image and sound, the work of Wassily Kandinsky has provided an inspirational model. Kandinsky’s ideas have entered my referential inspiration through my absorption of his intentionality as expressed in “Concerning the Spiritual in Art,” where he wrote:
“... The most modern musicians like Debussy create a spiritual impression, often taken from nature, but embodied in purely musical form. For this reason Debussy is often classed with the Impressionist painters on the ground that he resembles these painters in using natural phenomena for the purposes of his art. Whatever truth there may be in this comparison merely accentuates the fact that the various arts of today learn from each other and often resemble each other.”
Further down, he also stated:
“… And so at different points along the road are the different arts, saying what they are best able to say, and in the language which is peculiarly their own. Despite, or perhaps thanks to, the differences between them, there has never been a time when the arts approached each other more nearly than they do today, in this later phase of spiritual development.”
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