A rendering of "A Simple Verse"
Emilio Perez Installs "A Simple Verse" in Cuba

Emilio Perez will create a 20 meter, site-specific mural, titled A Simple Verse (Un Verso Sencillo) to be installed along Havana's iconic Malecón for the exhibition Detrás Del Muro II. The exhibition will take place during Cuba's 12th Havana Biennial. Detrás Del Muro II opens Sunday, May 24th at 6pm.

From the artist:

The site-specific mural for the Havana Malecón, A Simple Verse, takes as inspiration the book of poems Versos Sencillos by Cuban poet and national hero Jose Marti y Perez. It is my largest artwork to date, and the first to be shown in Cuba, my parents’ country of birth. I created this mural with the intention of echoing the history of the country and my family, building upon the site’s past, present and future.

Jose Marti, like my parents, was a Cuban exile in New York, where I was born and where he wrote and published Versos Sencillos in 1891. I feel very proud that this major piece will be exhibited in Havana, a city that until 2001 (the one time I visited) only existed in my dreams and imagination. It is uncanny to think that a place you have never physically been to could help define such a strong identity. As a first generation Cuban American, I have been overly exposed to the resentment, pride and nostalgia of my parents. Simultaneously I am American through the lens of the Cuban experience.

Built in the span of the fifty years after the US intervention in 1898, Havana’s Malecón is a continuous seawall boulevard that borders the city. It is one of the capital’s most relevant avenues, a silent witness to the history of the city that keeps its spirit alive.

In my mural I want to capture the city’s dynamic life. While painting I followed a regular formal rhyming scheme and alliteration that worked like a reverberation of Marti’s book of poems. The rhythm that infuses the environs of the Malecón has underscored some of the country’s most tumultuous political events and has enjoyed the joyful festivity of countless carnival parades.

Marti’s verse Si ves un monte de espuma… is a direct reference to the sea which has always been a source of inspiration for me. This time it will directly face my artwork. The mural was built with 32 wooden panels partially tinted blue and green to play off the color shades of the ocean. However, the painting is done mainly in pastels to resemble the old faded paint of Havana’s buildings. I left some of the wood grain unpainted to bring out the wood’s colors; being exposed to the elements helps accelerate the natural aging process of the piece and amalgamates it with the crumbling Havana landscape.

A Simple Verse is perhaps one of the largest portable outdoor art murals ever placed within a public space in the city of Havana. I follow my own technique of working the negative space out of the painting’s surface by using a hand cut stencil technique over layers of acrylic paint, resulting in a low-relief composition that builds a sense of three-dimensionality.

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