Denise M. Gerson, Former Associate Director, Curator, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami
First noticed and now represented by art dealer Aldo Castillo, Fredy Villamil’s dazzling paintings synthesize figuration, abstraction, line, form, and color with an artistic mastery that belies his youthful hand. Born in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, in 1980, as a child Villamil received art lessons from his father, Francis M. Villamil, a painter and teacher of fine arts in Havana. Formal study followed at the EVA (Cuba’s Vocational School of Art) and at La Quinta de los Molinos, both in Havana. Since he was a child, Villamil was drawn to Havana’s House of Culture (Casa de Cultura), where he widened his artistic circle, meeting and engaging with emerging and established artists, many of whom, including Ruben Suarez Quidiello, Angel Boligan, Nuez Jose M. Delarr, Heriberto Mora, José Luis Posada, and Eberto Escobedo are today renowned among collectors, museums, and cultural institutions.
Artistic training aside, Villamil considers himself, at heart, self-taught, and indeed, his work is born of elements that resist instruction — intuition, emotional connection, and memory — the stuff of personal artistic vision. The last of these influences, memory, is a potent vestige of the diaspora experience that took the painter on an artistic and personal journey within a span of many years from Havana to Mexico to Spain, and in 2010 led him to emigrate to the United States. Along the way Villamil exhibited to acclaim in Mexico, USA, Turkey, Costa Rica, Iran, India, China, Japan, and Azerbaijan, amassing a trove of international awards and honors that recognize and acknowledge his original contributions to contemporary visual art.
Gazing into Villamil’s paintings is metaphorically akin to tumbling through Lewis Carroll’s literary rabbit hole and finding oneself, magically, within Alice’s storied Wonderland. Beneath light-filled surfaces transformed by scarlet, aqua, emerald green, amythyst, and topaz palettes fairly crackling with the dynamic merger of fractured lines and colliding shapes, beyond the vibrant jewel-toned hues and overlapping forms, lies a kaleidoscopic vision overrun by a proliferation of biomorphic shapes and organic forms that seem to have no beginning and no end, no up, no down, no top, no bottom.
However, peer intently into a canvas and you will slowly realize that Villamil’s dazzling tours de force of vibrant color and kinetic line, while initially a confounding feast for the eye, optically resolves into a carefully constructed motif that firmly anchors the artist’s dizzying array of tiny components to deepest space. For Villamil joyously embraces Europe’s greatest art historical traditions of figuration, full length and truncated, frontal and profile, single and conjoined, alternately composing lovely recumbent nudes, preening women with fans, fashionable damas (Ladies) adorned with fantastical chapeaux, and mothers tending babes. The artist poignantly reveals in conversation that he draws inspiration from the women of his own family, and gently confides that each work is a soulful, perhaps even meditative, reflection on a family member held dear. Thus is each painting imbued with deeply personal content.
Finally, it must be pointed out that although Villamil left Havana a number of years ago, and now resides in Miami, the cultural roots of his native homeland profoundly affect his art. Indeed, Villamil embraces Cuban Vanguardia masters, acknowledging the influence of Cundo Bermudez, Rene Portocarrero, Amelia Palaez, and Wifredo Lam, among others. Yet individual stylistic homages do not dominate his work, which remains uniquely imaginative and deeply inventive. Nor does Villamil deny his deep respect for European Modern masters, like Picasso and Klee, from whose artistic legacies — respectively the multiple points of view of Cubism and the mosaic-like patterns of Surrealism — he also draws inspiration. Rather, Villamil’s visual idioms are born of a rich artistic vocabulary of his own devise that infuses his work with creative vigor and stylistic authority, and elevates it to a masterful level of artistic expression.
Aldo Castillo Gallery
Miromar Design Center, 10800 Corkscrew Rd, Suite 195, Estero, FL 33928