Cabezas (Heads)
Rafael Soriano
June 20-September 30, 2019

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Tuesday-Sunday 10AM-5PM

OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas
201 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20006


The OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas presents Rafael Soriano: Cabezas (Heads), a traveling exhibition of work by the Cuban-born painter, organized by The William Paterson University Galleries, organized and curated by Alejandro Anreus (Professor of Art History and Latin American/Latinx Studies, William Paterson University) and Kristen Evangelista (Director of the William Paterson University Galleries).

This exhibition features more than 20 significant artworks by Cuban-born painter Rafael Soriano (1920-2015), one of the major Latin American artists of his generation. Soriano stands apart from his peers who largely focused on formalism and gestural abstraction because he developed his own visual vocabulary informed by abstraction yet steeped in metaphysical meaning. While Soriano began his career creating geometric abstractions, he became known for his luminous and biomorphic imagery reminiscent of surrealism. This shift in style is often attributed to the artist’s exile from Cuba in 1962 and his emotional response to the experience. The artist said, “The anxieties and sadness of exile brought in me an awakening. I began to search for something else; it was through my painting…[as] I went from geometric painting to a painting that is spiritual.”

This installment of the exhibition is unique, in that it is augmented by featured works of the OAS AMA art collection by Rodolfo Opazo (Chile, b.1935) , Fernando de Szyszlo (Peru, b.1925, d.2017), Roberto Estopiñan (Cuban, b.1921, d.2015), Victor Chab (Argentina, b.1930), Armando Morales (Nicaragua, b.1927, d.2011), Fidelio Ponce de Leon (Cuba, b.1895, d.1949), Roberto Diago (Cuba, b.1910, d.1955), and Roberto Estopiñan (Cuba, b.1921, d.2015). 

Drawing on loans from the Rafael Soriano Foundation, this exhibit chronicles the development of Soriano’s unique biomorphic style, which culminated in a specific body of work depicting the human head. This is the first exhibit devoted to Soriano’s important series of paintings of heads, which are some of the artist’s most figurative and introspective works. The exhibit reveals the development of this body of work from early investigations in the late 1960s and 1970s through vital works of the 1980s and 1990s. Many of these canvases feature larger-than-life heads rendered in deep shades of blue, purple, red, and orange. This exhibit will showcase Soriano’s landmark paintings of heads as a means to elucidate the origins and significance of the artist’s fascination with the mystical.

Rafael Soriano was born in 1920 in the town of Cidra in the province of Matanzas, Cuba. After completing seven years of study at Havana’s San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, he graduated in 1943 as professor of painting, drawing and sculpture. He then returned to Matanzas and was one of the founders, and later director of the Matanzas School of Fine Art. In 1962, Soriano went into exile, settling in Miami, Florida with his wife Milagros and his daughter Hortensia. He worked as a graphic designer and occasionally taught, first at the Catholic Welfare Bureau, and later at the Cuban Cultural Program of the University of Miami. He lived in Miami, where he died at age 94.

Soriano’s work has been exhibited in numerous solo exhibitions and over 200 collective shows. His paintings have traveled throughout the United States, Latin America, and Europe. His work is included in many private and public collections including the Art Museum of the Americas, Organization of American States, Washington, DC; Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, TX; CIFO Collection, Cisnero Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami, FL; Cuban Museum of Arts and Culture, Miami, FL; Denver Art Museum, CO; Museum of Modern Art, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ; Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA; Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL; McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, MA; Museum of Art of Matanzas, Cuba; Museum of Art of Medellin, Colombia; National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba; Museum of Art, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami, FL; Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.

The AMA serves as the principal instrument of cultural diplomacy of the OAS. AMA’s mission is founded on the notion that the arts are transformative for individuals and communities. This guiding principle promotes the core values of the OAS by providing a space for cultural expression, creativity, innovation, dialog, and learning, while highlighting themes such as democracy, development, human rights, justice, freedom of expression, and innovation. AMA’s work draws on contemporary art to showcase a constructive vision of the future of the Americas via local and hemispheric cultural exchange.

This exhibition is made possible in part by funds from the FAMA | Friends of the Art Museum of the Americas, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Accessibility: There is a flight of winding stairs leading to the museum’s second floor, where this exhibition is taking place. Restrooms are located on the second floor. For more information on accessibility, or to make an appointment to visit, please contact 202 370 0147 or