Emerging from a figurative tradition deeply rooted on Cubanidad, a commitment to infuse Cuban realities and popular myths into new forms of representation, Carreño’s interest in abstract painting increased in the early 1950s. As a member of Los Diez Pintores Concretos, Carreño and others converged to articulate historical “concrete art within a Cuban context,” as Abigail McEwen notes in the catalogue of the 2016 exhibition Concrete Cuba at David Zwirner in New York. By 1953, convinced figuration was no longer capable of expressing the reality of the times, Carreño founded, alongside Sandú Darié and Luis Martinez Pedro, a theoretical art magazine, Noticias de Arte. Writing articles such as “Morality in Abstract Painting,” he introduced Cuban Concretism as “an aesthetic corollary of the historical and spiritual needs of our time.” Although short-lived, Noticias de Arte successfully reported the latest news on abstract-geometric art to a country increasingly aware of these developments in other Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Brazil.
Artist Pedro de Oraá, once wrote in a history of the group that they felt an intense romanticism in the project: the spirit of the concretos simmered in hope and imagination. The Cuba of the 1950s was full of pre-revolutionary tumult and vigor—Batista was still in power and upheaval was a growing presence in the national conversation. Instead of merely decrying the regime, Carreño and his contemporaries wanted to offer “a new form of political and social engagement” through their work; but rather than create visions for a new system, their paintings abstracted the very idea of utopia itself, through color and line. Despite its brief existence, Los Diez had a profound impact, not only on the history of Cuban art, but on the trajectory of twentieth-century abstraction internationally.
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