OBITUARY: Goodbye to the irreverent Osneldo García

A few days before his 90th birthday, we visited Osneldo García at his home in Santa Fe. He received us without protocol, without the pose of a great artist. He, who was an immense artist.

“I’m one of those who makes sculptures for fun… and I’m going to keep having fun until I finally say goodbye, until I see more.”

This Friday, in Havana, Osneldo has said goodbye. One of the most important Cuban sculptors has died, an artist who placed eroticism at the very center of his creation. In 2003, for his extraordinary creative exercise, he received the National Prize for Plastic Arts.

The day of the meeting he did not want a conventional interview; she preferred to talk, “as if she had known you all her life.”

In this portal we publish the chronicle: He evoked his years of childhood and youth in Mayajigua, former province of Las Villas. The artist that he became already lived in the child that he was. And especially in the teenager who sold carved figurines to tourists who visited the famous lakes of the place.

Osneldo used to say that those were “relax” figurines, and he had a lot of fun remembering the enthusiasm of the Americans who bought them for him.

For Osneldo García, eroticism was not a simple and libidinous proposal, but a system of symbols, a playful proposal, a suggestion to the viewer.

The difference between eroticism and pornography, according to him, lies in the meaning, in the forcefulness of the formal and conceptual proposal, in the polysemy that art establishes.

Away from the spotlight of the media, he continued to be a reference for various promotions of artists in Cuba.

He exhibited on almost every continent, was invited to famous biennials… and was also a clandestine combatant, a revolutionary fighter, a personal friend of Camilo Cienfuegos (he proudly showed his photos with the Hero).

But, he confessed to us that afternoon, he still felt like the child he had been in Mayajigua, because he could not conceive of life without enjoying its little pleasures.

For some, many of his works are toys for adults. And he loved that idea: “Let them play! Let them play!”

NOTE FROM THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF PLASTIC ARTS

The sculptor Osneldo García, who deserved the 2003 National Prize for Plastic Arts for his life’s work, died in Havana at the age of 90 on Friday night.

With an early defined creative vocation, Osneldo began carving and model making during his childhood as a farmer in Mayajigua, on the outskirts of Yaguajay, northeast of the old province of Las Villas.

Upon moving to the capital, the young man made a living by making ornamental plaster figures and reproductions of virgins, images of saints and angels, and thus managed to pay his tuition and graduate in drawing and sculpture at the Academy of San Alejandro, where he met Camilo Cienfuegos. At that stage he returned again and again to his place of origin.

Like many other of his contemporaries, he felt the need to transform the suffocating political and social situation that had prevailed since the 1952 coup d’état. So he was a member of the July 26 Movement, was its head in Mayajigua and joined the Northern Front of Las Villas, and later to column no. 2 led by Commander Camilo Cienfuegos.

The Revolution represented for him not only the triumph of the ideals for which he fought, but also the opportunity to fully develop his artistic talent, as he demonstrated with a personal exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts. In 1962 he traveled to the German Democratic Republic to complete his academic training. The result of the qualitative leap was shown in successive exhibitions towards the middle of that decade in various Eastern European countries and in the one he displayed in 1968 at the Habana Gallery. Osneldo was in every sense an advance. His works have participated in numerous exhibitions over the years.

This last venue witnessed in 1977 one of the defining moments in Osneldo’s career: his foray into kinetic art, in which he stood out for his pioneering work. On a public scale, two of his most emblematic works in this field were located in the gardens of the National Theater and the Palacio de los Pioneros Ernesto Che Guevara.
About his work, the poet, artist and critic Pedro de Oraá expressed: “In the animation of matter, Osneldo has resolved his particular interpretation of the contingencies and obsessions of the spirit of the time…”

By his own decision and that of his family, his remains will be cremated and his ashes scattered at sea.

Reach family, friends, former students, colleagues and admirers of your work, our heartfelt condolences.

National Council of Plastic Arts
Havana, February 25, 2022.

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