Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla

A touring retrospective exhibition of Cuban artist Zelia Sánchez: Soy Isla is at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, NYC, Wednesday-Saturday, November 20, 2019 to March 22, 2020.

Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla

This first museum retrospective of the Cuban abstractionist features over 40 works from the early 1950s to the present.

The retrospective covers the artist’s entire working life in Cuba, Europe in the 1950s, New York City in the 1960s, and Puerto Rico where she has lived and worked since the early 1970s.

The show’s title “Soy Isla” (I am an island) speaks to both a woman’s sense of self, and the artist’s Caribbean life.


There is a simultaneous exhibition of Zelia’s recent work Zeliz Sánchez: Eros at Galerie Lelong in Chelsea, NYC.

Zilia Sánchez

The art world was amazed and delighted to discover Cuban abstractionist Carmen Herrera (Havana, 1915). She had been making great art since the 1940s, but nobody noticed until 2004. It was wonderful because she is a woman and a Latin woman at that.

But in one of life’s great mysteries, there is not only one great woman Cuban abstractionist who was discovered late in her career. There are two. Zelia Sánchez is the other.

Sánchez invites comparison with Herrera because both make the simplest forms exotic. Sánchez began breaking her picture plane by stretching canvas over a form and then painting the canvas. Her forms tend to be more organic.

The work is very sensual with references to breasts and hips. It’s very female. It is striking in its simplicity.

The work is also striking in the way that Sánchez manipulates human instinctive response to female forms of motherhood and sensuality.

The artist has worked similar forms throughout her career. Her practice keeps moving towards sculpture. Some of her recent work is even self-standing.

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