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Unprecedented Retrospective on Works of Major Latin American Painter:

Rafael Soriano: The Artist as Mystic
January 30–June 4, 2017

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (December 2016) — The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College presents a groundbreaking retrospective on the work of Cuban-born painter Rafael Soriano (1920–2015), one of the major Latin American artists of his generation. An unprecedented examination of his life’s work, Rafael Soriano: The Artist as Mystic focuses on the multiple influences that nurtured a style where, in his words, “the intimate and the cosmic converge.”

On display January 30 to June 4, 2017, the exhibition comprises more than ninety paintings, pastels, and drawings by the acclaimed master of geometric abstraction, who immigrated to the United States in 1962 as a result of the Cuban Revolution. A global figure in the twentieth-century art world, his work resonated with such international artists of Latin American origin as Roberto Matta, Rufino Tamayo, and Wifredo Lam.

 “The McMullen is pleased to present the most comprehensive retrospective of the work of one of the last century’s major artists of Cuban origin,” said McMullen Museum of Art Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. “Accompanied by a bilingual catalogue of essays written by established scholars, the exhibition brings together and examines from various perspectives more than ninety of Rafael Soriano’s finest paintings. We are delighted that the exhibition will travel to the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University in Miami, thereby increasing opportunities for dialogue about this important, though lesser-known artist.”

The Artist as Mystic begins with Soriano’s works in the Cuban geometric abstract style. It then moves to his transitional, experimental paintings from the 1960s and 1970s, reminiscent of surrealist biomorphism. The exhibition concludes with luminous, mystical imagery in paintings from Soriano’s mature period. The works on display are from the Rafael Soriano Family Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Art Museum of the Americas, and Long Beach Museum of Art as well as other institutions and private collections.

“Cuban-born Rafael Soriano was a global figure in twentieth-century art whose work resonated with European and Latin American surrealism,” according to curator Elizabeth Thompson Goizueta, a faculty member in Boston College’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. “Soriano’s early work in the geometric abstract movement met with great acclaim in Cuba in the 1950s but it was his later, biomorphic and organic imagery that launched him on an international path. Rafael Soriano: The Artist as Mystic seeks to reveal the complete trajectory of his œuvre, both the physical in his early geometrics as well as the metaphysical in his later search for the universal.”

[MEDIA NOTE: A selection of press images is available here: Please email Kate Shugert with questions. Slideshow of images, more exhibition details at]

Exhibition Organizers and Support; Subsequent Venues
The exhibition is organized by the McMullen Museum in conjunction with the Rafael Soriano Foundation. Major support has been provided by Boston College and the Patrons of the McMullen Museum. Following its debut at the McMullen Museum, the exhibition will travel to the Long Beach Museum of Art (June 29–October 1, 2017) and the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum (October 28, 2017–January 28, 2018).

Rafael Soriano: The Artist as Mystic
Born in the province of Matanzas, Cuba, Rafael Soriano was a global figure in twentieth-century art whose imagination resonated with international artists of Latin American origin. After his emigration, his style underwent a marked transformation and received wide acclaim. The Artist as Mystic explores Soriano’s development by examining his early, transitional, and mature works.

The section on Soriano’s early period, from the 1940s and 1950s in both Matanzas and Havana, displays some twenty-five works in the style of what is known as “Cuban geometric abstraction,” characterized by strong, flat colors in geometric planes.

The twenty-five paintings from Soriano’s transitional period, from the 1960s through the 1970s, reveal the effect of the Cuban Revolution on his work. Leaving Cuba in 1962 with the hope of an imminent return, Soriano moved to Miami. His trauma upon realizing he would not return to Cuba caused him to stop working for two years. The exhibition shows the several styles with which he experimented after he resumed painting in 1964 and how his flat, angular forms gradually transformed into curving abstracted images reminiscent of surrealist biomorphism. It reveals how the latter paintings signal an ongoing transformation that leads to his mature style.

The final section examines changes in Soriano’s mature period spanning the 1980s and the 1990s. In the thirty outstanding paintings—among the artist’s finest—organic biomorphic imagery transcends geometrics to dominate the canvas. Charged with oneiric luminosity, the permutations of colors reflect the artist as master of his craft as he depicts the spiritual dimension of the mysteries of the universe.

Exhibition Lenders
Rafael Soriano Family Collection
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Art Museum of the Americas, Organization of American States
Long Beach Museum of Art
Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami
Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection
Zelaya Rodríguez Collection
Dominic and Cristian Veloso Collection
Brillembourg Capriles Collection
Private collections

Accompanying Catalogue
An English-Spanish catalogue includes contributions from American, Cuban-American, and Cuban scholars. An unprecedented examination of his œuvre, its focus is on the effect of the Cuban Revolution on Soriano’s art as well as his aesthetics in general. It begins with a contextual analysis of Soriano’s relationship to the Cuban avant-garde and his position within the emerging mid-century modernists. Essays then trace his evolving styles, examining his work through the lens of surrealism and European and Latin American transnational aesthetics. The idea of exile and struggle is a leitmotif, framed within questions of transcendence and spirituality. The contributions suggest both Soriano’s rootedness in Latin America and his striving for universality.

Edited by curator Elizabeth Thompson Goizueta, who also wrote an essay, it includes essays by an interdisciplinary team of experts including Boston College professors Roberto S. Goizueta (Theology Department) and Claude Cernuschi (Art, Art History, and Film Studies Department). Other contributors are William Paterson University professor Alejandro Anreus and curator of the Cuban avant-garde collection at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, Roberto Cobas Amate.

Accompanying Free, Public Events
Public programming is planned for families and the general public. For more information, and to register for those events which require advance registration (as indicated below), please visit the McMullen Museum Events page:

Museum Current: Lecture Series: The new Museum Current lecture series focuses on recent scholarship, discoveries, and trends in Museum Studies. On March 16, Dr. Mary Malloy, Harvard University Museum Studies professor, will discuss the history of museums and early methods of collecting. On March 30, Declan McGonagle, Founding Director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, will speak on the current state of contemporary art and its display in Ireland. Presentations will be held at 5:30 p.m., 2101 Commonwealth Avenue Conference Center.

“Fragmented Body and Fragmented Self: The Theme of Exile in the Neo-Surrealist Works of Rafael Soriano”: Lecture by Claude Cernuschi on April 9: Contributor to the Rafael Soriano: The Artist as Mystic exhibition catalogue and professor of Art History at Boston College, Dr. Claude Cernuschi will analyze Soriano’s mature work in relation to his exile and to his formal and thematic engagement with surrealism, particularly, the work of Hans Arp, Hans Bellmer, and Arshile Gorky. Lecture will be held at 1:00 p.m., 2101 Commonwealth Avenue Conference Center.

Poetry Reading and Q&A: On April 27, prize-winning Cuban poet and writer Juana Rosa Pita, a friend of artist Rafael Soriano, will read her poetry inspired by the artist and discuss her work. Advance registration is required; 6:30 p.m., 2101 Commonwealth Avenue Conference Center.

Second Saturdays Children’s Program: Every second Saturday, beginning on February 11, the McMullen Museum offers young children and families opportunities to engage with its temporary exhibitions. A variety of activities—including storytelling, tours, games, music, and crafts—invite children to explore themes in the works on display. Prior registration is required. A Spring Celebration will be held on April 8 from noon to 5 p.m.

McMullen Museum of Art
The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College offers world-class, critically acclaimed exhibitions; it occupies a Roman Renaissance Revival palazzo at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue. Funded in part by a gift to the University from the McMullen Family Foundation, the new state-of-the-art venue, which debuted in September, includes 30,000 gross-square feet of space. [News release on the new McMullen Museum venue, which opened in September: /sites/artmuseum/press/new-venue.html]

The McMullen is renowned for organizing interdisciplinary exhibitions that ask new questions and break new ground in the display and scholarship of the works on view. It serves as a dynamic educational resource for all of New England as well as the national and international community. The Museum mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public programs. The McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 for the late BC benefactor, trustee, and art collector John J. McMullen and his wife Jacqueline McMullen.
McMullen Museum Hours and Tours
Admission is free; handicapped accessible, open to the public. Located at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02135 on BC’s 65-acre Brighton Campus. Hours during this exhibition: Monday–Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The Museum will be closed on Friday, April 14, 2017; Sunday, April 16, 2017; Monday, April 17, 2017; and Monday, May 29, 2017. Contact:, 617.552.8587. All events are free and open to the public. Beginning on February 12, docent tours will be held on Sundays from 2 to 3 p.m.; no prior registration is required. Private tours are arranged upon request, with two weeks’ advance notice, by calling 617.552.8587. For directions, parking, and program information, visit

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