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University Of Miami Honors Cuban Sculptor Roberto Estopiñán

Alejandro Anreus

Cuban-born sculptor Roberto Estopiñán used his island’s tumultuous decades as his muse.

His art reflected Cuba's political turmoil during the 1950s and later became more naturalistic during his exile.

Also a printmaker and draftsman, Estopiñán was a pioneer of direct carvings using wood and of welding techniques in Latin America. He is also recognized for his 1980s bronzes of the female torso.

Estopiñán died in January in Miami at the age of 95.

He will be honored at the University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection and Cuban Museum (CHC) Thursday at the Otto G. Richter Library.

Alejandro Anreus, an art historian teaching at William Paterson University in New Jersey, is Estopiñán’s trustee. He distributes the sculptor’s artwork to public institutions.

When he was a 16-year-old “up and coming artist,” Anreus first met Estopiñán.

“From the very beginning, he was always incredibly generous in terms of showing me techniques and giving me materials,” Anreus said.

They soon forged a lifelong friendship. Anreus instead decided to pursue a career as an art historian. He was the curator at museums that included some of Estopiñán’s works.

Credit Alejandro Anreus / Courtesy
Estopiñán welding "Musician" in 1952.

During the 1950s, Estopiñán's direct carvings with native Cuban woods were abstract. He was part of the generation that fought against former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, who was overthrown by the 1959 Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro.

In 1953, Estopiñán was the only semi-finalist from Latin America at the Tate Gallery’s international sculpture competition for a Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner.

By 1961, Estopiñán became disenchanted with the revolution’s outcome, so he went into exile. He lived in New York City from the 1960s until 2002, when he retired to Miami.

Anreus says Estopiñán’s artwork in the ‘60s “took a different turn.” His woodcarvings featured “very expressionistic, angst-ridden” carved and welded pieces depicting political prisoners, fallen warriors and crucifixions.

The most complete collection of Estopiñán’s prints is housed in Jersey City Museum in New Jersey. CHC at the University of Miami has received 46 sketchbooks, some of which will be displayed during Thursday's commemoration.

The event will include readings by poets Alina Galliano and Gastón Álvaro; remarks by Estopiñán’s nephew Victor Alberto Garrido and the art historian Alejandro Anreus; and a recognition of Estopiñán’s widow Carmina Benguría.

The program is followed by a screening of the documentary “Artists in Exile: Roberto Estopiñán” by the late Cuban-American television writer and producer Ray Blanco.

"A Celebration of Roberto Estopiñán (1921-2015)," 7 p.m. Thursday, May 28 at the University of Miami Library, 1300 Memorial Drive, Coral Gables. To register, email richterevents@miami.edu or call 305-284-4026.