Make us your home page
Instagram

'Tomás Marais: Artist in Exile' at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art

BY LENNIE BENNETT

Times Art Critic

TARPON SPRINGS

We last saw the work of Tomás Marais (1931-2004) in 2002 at the now-closed Gulf Coast Museum of Art in Largo, and I wrote in my review that it had the feel of a retrospective. "Tomás Marais: Artist in Exile," now at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, is a similar show, beginning with early works and continuing to a work from 2004, the year he died. Though it is life-spanning, the show is a survey because it's more representative than comprehensive.

Like many Cuban artists, Marais suffered from the repression of the Communist government, which took over in 1959. He moved to Paris, then relocated to Tampa in the mid 1980s to be closer to family.

The 37 works in this exhibit come from those three phases of his life. More than half are woodcut prints he created as a young man in the early 1960s before he departed Cuba, and they're wonderful. Even in the most representational ones in which people inhabit landscapes, the fantasy and profusion of patterns that would define his later paintings are evident. His homages to great artists such as Picasso, whose masklike faces influence those of Marais, are straightforward. One of the earliest works, from the 1950s, is a color drawing titled Thoughts, in which the top of a man's head is replaced with a gramophone. It is a precursor to the surrealism he embraced once he reached Paris, but it also looks back. The room in which the man stands is a ringer for Vincent van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles, minus the furniture.

Marais' angular faces become more exaggerated during his Paris years. Narcissus, a 1965 oil painting with a nuanced blend of tones, has the young man in profile resembling a Thai shadow puppet. His eye suggests the ancient Egyptian practice of depicting humans in profile while painting the eye as a full view. This treatment becomes more pronounced in later works.

In the final decades, Marais wrapped the elements and themes that he had explored into a singular and exuberant vision. He uses combinations that sometimes seem to defy color theory, but, swirling around their canvases, they work. Many artists, as they get older, get darker. Marais' paintings are full of joy and generosity. Machine to Pick Up Beauty, for example, is a whimsical interpretation of a garbage truck with a flower as its scoop. The subjects in Fashion Show Mannequins are dressed like circus performers with the familiar, jagged profiles and Egyptian eyes in a riotous setting. Even Fidel Castro, who was the cause of Marais' exile, is treated with humorous rather than savage satire, depicted as an old goat. (The painting from the 1980s revisits a very similar print from the 1960s.)

Marais needed to work his way through art history to arrive at his style. It became the visual version of the literary magical realism that was a part of his cultural heritage. It seems simplistic, but only a mature artist who had paid his dues could have pulled it off.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at lbennett@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8293.

Review

Tomás Marais: Artist in Exile

The exhibition is at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art on the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg College, 600 Klosterman Road, through Nov. 24. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 adults, $5 seniors and free to students with ID. Suggested donation is $5 on Sunday with free docent tour at 2 p.m. spcollege.edu/museum or (727) 712-5762.

'Tomás Marais: Artist in Exile' at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art 11/05/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 5:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Ticket window: Shania Twain, Chicago, George Benson

    Music & Concerts

    Tickets for the following events go on sale this week:

    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 01:  Singer Shania Twain performs during the debut of her residency show "Shania: Still the One" at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on December 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)
  2. Plan your weekend Aug. 25-27: Craig Morgan, Wearable Art 13, SNL's Pete Davidson, Rodeo Fest

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    USF

    Pete Davidson: Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson will headline this year's University of South Florida Round-Up Comedy Show, a back-to-school tradition at USF. Expect to hear about his recent trip to rehab, since he's known for his confessional …

    The 12th annual Wearable art Fashion Show was held at the Dunedin Fine Art Center on Saturday evening, August 27, 2016.
DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times
  3. Pasco Events for Aug. 25-31

    Events

    25 Friday

    Feeding Pasco's Elderly hosts inaugural Leadership Breakfast: The Pasco County Elderly Nutrition Division/Feeding Pasco's Elderly will host this east Pasco event to mirror the Ambassador's Breakfast fundraising event that has been held the past two years on the county's west side. County …

  4. Local craft beer of the week: Cherry Pastelitos, Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa

    Bars & Spirits

    On Saturday, Tampa's Coppertail Brewing Co. will celebrate its third anniversary with a Florida weisse festival, showcasing densely fruited tart wheat beers from more than a dozen Tampa Bay area breweries including, of course, many of its own brews in this summer-friendly style.

    Center: Coppertail Brewing’s Cherry Pastelitos. Flanking it are Coppertail’s BOMP (blood orange, mango, passionfruit), left, and Pinky Swear (pink lemonade-flavored).
  5. 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' opens run at Show Palace Dinner Theatre

    Stage

    The Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson takes a nostalgic swing through the 1950s and '60s with its production of Smokey Joe's Cafe, which opens Aug. 26. The local offering of the longest-running rock 'n' roll revue in Broadway history features the legendary pop tunes of hit makers Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber. …

    A local production of the 1950s and '60s musical revue "Smokey Joe's Cafe" opens Aug. 26 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson.