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LnS Gallery presents the late works of Cuban painter Rafael Soriano

Toward the end of his career, exiled Cuban painter Rafael Soriano began making some of his best work. The artist found initial success at home as a member of the The Ten Painters of Concrete (The Ten Concrete Painters) working in geometric abstraction. Years later, after moving to Miami with his family in the aftermath of the Castro Revolution, his business took a turn. Colors darkened, shapes became more organic, and canvases took on a dreamlike quality. Plucked from the comforts of home, Soriano discovered a late style he had never seen before.

“We were looking at the business structure, [and] We started to realize in the ’90s, at the age of 70, that this guy was doing [what was] It is perhaps his finest work, says Sergio Cernuda, director of LnS Gallery. “There was a lot of rhythm. There was authenticity.”

Soriano retired from art at the turn of the millennium and passed away in 2015. Coral Gables-based LnS Gallery, which began representing his estate two years earlier, began a campaign to see him recognized as a major contemporary artist, not to mention a leading figure in Cuban and Latin American art. Ahead of a retrospective in Madrid later this year—the artist’s first solo show in Europe—he kicks off the show here in his adopted home of Miami with Transcendentalism, Distilled, an exhibition focused on his towering late-1990s paintings, including three of his largest painting.

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Rafael Soriano Absence of bird invention1992, oil on canvas, 76 x 96 in

LnS gallery photos

“We decided to focus on 15 pieces that were part of the real estate collection that would create really interesting language around his ’90s work,” Cernuda explains. “It’s the first time the property has allowed a gallery to display these works, which is very exciting.”

The paintings in “Transcendentalism, Distilled” echo many of the great masters of Art Nouveau. Deep Colors recalls Mark Rothko’s explorations of the color field. Soriano’s use of biomorphism, exemplified by works such as The haunted dream, with its twisted limb-like shapes, can be seen in Henry Moore’s sculptures. He combines these tendencies with surrealist theory, suspending his figures in dark, void-like spaces that seem to have emerged from a dream.

Soriano, whom Cernuda describes as “introverted” and “contemplative”, often turned to the unconscious for direction in life and in art. His late career turnaround may stem from the trauma of leaving Cuba behind. Having stopped painting after emigrating, Soriano dreamed of the return of Trinity to his hometown of Matanzas, which made him realize the importance of returning to his artistic practice in his new home.

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Presentation of the installation “Distilled Transcendentalism: Rafael Soriano” at LnS Gallery

LnS gallery photos

“There was evidence that things weren’t going to change in Cuba any time soon,” says Cernuda, “and Miami was now home, and Miami is where he needs to start establishing himself.”

Despite the brooding nature of his work and the turmoil his displacement created, Soriano was relatively happy in Miami. He led a happy home life, his art was supported by his family, and his wife Milagros even built frames for his paintings. In a sense, life in Miami helped him develop a truly unique style.

“In the context of the ’90s, he wasn’t necessarily looking for any kind of trend or happening in the art world,” Cernuda adds. “He was doing this work for himself.”

Distilled Transcendentalism: Rafael Soriano. On view through February 28, at LnS Gallery, 2610 SW 28th Ln. Miami; 5642-987 305; lnsgallery.com. Submission is free. Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 6pm, Saturday from noon to 5pm