Pleni Luna series, lithographs, 1974, by the Cuban artist Wifredo Lam

Cuban artist Wifredo Lam is the son of an Afro-Cuban mother and a Chinese father. His childhood and education were a hybrid of Catholicism and African traditions.

Lam travelled to Spain at the age of 18, spending over two decades in Europe. He incorporated masks into his work for the first time after arriving in Paris, later meeting Breton in Marseille and joining the surrealist movement.

Lam returned to Cuba in 1941 to find a profoundly depressing scene. His purpose was to build up an art scene in which Cuban identity and négritude were a source of national pride. He worked alongside other artists and intellectuals on the island to create this alternative to imposed modern portraits.

He once again started depicting African masks in his work, developing what was to become his characteristic artistic and thematic style, focusing on race and Cuban identity.

The totemic and ritual nature of the works from the Pleni Luna series you are looking at responds to this theme. Autochthonous aspects have a fantastical component. Along with imaginary beings, he uses tools or weapons to form structures reminiscent of masks.

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