(NEW ORLEANS, LA) – Ogden Museum of Southern Art today announced the details of the coming solo exhibition, What a Wonderful World, featuring over 50 works that trace the formal and conceptual development of Cuban American visual artist, Luis Cruz Azaceta. The solo exhibition will be on view at Ogden Museum February 12 through July 24, 2022.
Born in Havana in 1942, Azaceta experienced the violence and turmoil leading to the Cuban Revolution. As the executions began in the Revolution’s aftermath, he emigrated from his home in 1960 to the United States at the age of 18. In New York he began using painting and drawing as a form of expression, finding his voice and identity through art. After graduating from the School of Visual Arts New York City, he began his professional career in 1975 with his first solo exhibition at Allan Frumkin Gallery in Midtown New York.
In the 1970s, Azaceta began using the self-portrait as a way to both explore his own identity and to understand the pain of others. By placing himself as a victim in the compositions, he expressed both solidarity and empathy – a process that he has carried throughout his career. His early works were figurative and expressionistic. They conveyed the isolation inherent to the immigrant experience, and confronted the critical issues of racism, urban violence, tyranny, oppression and the AIDS pandemic. His paintings captured the zeitgeist of 1970s New York City, preceding and informing the Neo-Expressionist movement that erupted in the 1980s.
Azaceta moved to New Orleans in 1992. In the years that followed, his work moved gradually toward abstraction. Formally, he began a deeper exploration of visual tensions in his work – wrestling discord into harmony through color, line and material. His works continued to face the harsh realities in the world and to explore the human condition through metaphorical representations of current events – economic collapse, environmental disasters, global pandemics, immigration, mass shootings, civil unrest and domestic terrorism. Yet his process and style is ever-evolving, resisting mannerist repetition and predictability, and allowing his own discovery through painting.
Bradley Sumrall, Ogden Museum’s Curator of the Collection states “For over fifty years, Luis Cruz Azaceta has created art, not for art’s sake, but to confront the most pressing issues of his time. Moving deftly between raw figurative expressionism and narrative abstraction, Azaceta conveys his own anxiety and fear about the state of the world through his paintings and sculptures. By bringing attention to current critical issues, Azaceta confronts harsh realities with the pictorial force of his work, tempered with his own brand of compassion and self-awareness. He views his work as his voice, and also as a weapon for change.”
Luis Cruz Azaceta: What a Wonderful World brings together works from 1975-2021 to show an artist who has consistently pushed himself and his practice into new territory, both formally and conceptually. It illustrates one man’s unrelenting examination of the human condition through drawing, painting and sculpture. The exhibition also reveals an artist who believes it is his duty to work for the betterment of humanity. It is that belief – in the power of beauty over tyranny, of truth over fear, and in the potential of art to affect change – that drives Azaceta’s studio practice and his endeavor to make a better world through the power of his creativity. This timely exhibition offers a glimpse into the full scope of that worthy endeavor.
Luis Cruz Azaceta: What a Wonderful World is curated by Bradley Sumrall, Curator of the Collection, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and organized by Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
About Luis Cruz Azaceta
Born in 1942 in Havana, Cuba, Luis Cruz Azaceta emigrated to New York City in 1960. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1969, and began an influential career as a New York artist. In 1992, Azaceta moved to New Orleans, where he continues to live and work.
“As an artist you use your experiences dealing with your surroundings and your conditions. The condition of being in exile is of being in two places simultaneously – physically in your place of exile, emotionally and spiritually in the place you left behind, your roots. This experience allowed me as an artist to address the condition of violence, racism, isolation, separation and oppression and identity through my work. It gave me an eye to understanding that this experience goes beyond my personal journey to a perspective of a more global condition that many live within.”
He has been the subject of over 100 solo exhibitions and more than 400 group exhibitions. He’s been awarded The National Endowment for the Arts (3 time recipient), The Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Grant and The Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant among others. His work is included in major museum collections such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art; The Smithsonian American Art Museum; Artium Museo De Arte Contemporáneo, Spain; Museo De Arte Contemporáneo De Monterrey, Mexico; and Ogden Museum of Southern Art, among many others.
About Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Located in the vibrant Warehouse Arts District of downtown New Orleans, Louisiana since 1999 and open to the public since 2003, Ogden Museum of Southern Art invites visitors to experience and learn about the artists and culture of the American South. Ogden Museum is home to a collection of more than four thousand works, making it the largest and most comprehensive repository dedicated to Southern art in the nation, with particular strength in the genres of Self-Taught art, Regionalism, photography, and contemporary art. The Museum is further recognized for its original exhibitions, public events and educational programs, which examine the development of visual art alongside Southern traditions of music, literature and local craft.
Ogden Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission is free to Museum Members and $13.50 for adults, $11 for seniors 65 and older, $6.75 for children ages 5-17 and free for children under 5.
The Museum is located at 925 Camp Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130. For more information visit ogdenmuseum.org or call 504.539.9650.