Montebravo (José de Jesús García Montesbravo), 55, is a self-taught painter from Cienfuegos, a city three and a half hours southeast of Havana. He painted as a youngster but only started doing art seriously in 1980 when he was 27. He taught geography in secondary schools for 19 years before becoming a full time artist. As with many Cuban artists, a welcoming spiritual tent hangs over all of his paintings, drawings and prints and though not trained, his works are informed by his in-depth knowledge of both African religions and art history. Known most for his series based on the Santería “orishas,” with broad-skirted “infantas” representing both the colors and the sense of the saints, in recent years Montebravo has added his series of “gallos” (roosters) and “escenas fantásticas” (fantasy scenes). In this show, he has even begun to combine the series as in “Yemayá Caribeña” where the figures of his “Escena” series surround the orisha Yemayá, all in an electric vibrating blue.
The show consists of 20 works on canvas and an equal number of works on paper. An additional portfolio of works on paper from the Center’s collection will also be available.
Montebravo has been invited to New York but the last word from Cienfuegos is that the Center’s lead time for inviting the artist (two months) is not sufficient for the three months now required by the bureaucracies of the U.S. and Cuban governments. Still, this is an advance: the Bush Administration gave virtually NO artist visas between 2003 and 2008.