Barely acknowledged in his native country in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution, artist Emilio Sanchez brought the sun-soaked colors of the Caribbean to his studio in New York. His stylized, abstracted images reveal the stillness of urban environments through a brilliant color palette combined with strong plays of light and shadow.
His architectural scenes from New York and the Caribbean stand out as simplified forms where all unessential details, including human presence, are eliminated. These stripped down structures take on a universal meaning where the images become a study of color, line and form.
A selection of Sanchez’s works from the University of Wyoming Art Museum’s permanent collection will be on view through Nov. 10 in the exhibition, Caribbean Color, Urban Lines and International Forms: Selected Works by Emilio Sanchez.
Born in Camagüey, Cuba, in 1921, Sanchez began his formal artistic training at the Art Students League in 1944 following his move to New York. Using two themes in his work, images of New York and the Caribbean, Sanchez brought to iconic American imagery the Modernism that he developed in Latin American and the Caribbean, demonstrating the internationalism that contributed to the development of American art.
Affected by ophthalmologic conditions throughout his life and nearly blind in one eye in his final years, Sanchez continued to work and cultivate his passion until his unexpected death in 1999. The Emilio Sanchez Foundation was then created to preserve, promote and sell his numerous artworks to support art scholarships and fund ophthalmologic research.
When the foundation closed in January 2012, the UW Art Museum was selected as the permanent repository of 76 paintings, watercolors, drawings and prints by Sanchez. This acquisition helped expand the museum’s role as an academic leader by adding works to the permanent collection that demonstrate the wide range of an artist’s talent and oeuvre with a variety of mediums within a specific theme.
Nicole M. Crawford is curator of collections at the UW Art Museum.