Viredo Espinosa dies; Cuban abstract expressionist artist was 83

September 3, 2012

Viredo Espinosa, a member of a revolutionary group of artists in 1950s Cuba whose abstract expressionism expanded the scope of the country’s modern art, died Aug. 26 at a nursing facility in Costa Mesa, Calif. He was 83.

His death, from vascular disease, was confirmed by a friend, Mariano Sanchez. Mr. Espinosa fled Cuba in 1969 and eventually settled in Southern California.

The Cuban artists were called the Group of the Eleven and introduced non-figurative, abstract works to modern art in their home country, said Raul Fernandez, chairman of the University of California at Irvine’s department of Chicano-Latino studies and who curated a traveling Smithsonian exhibition on Latin jazz art that featured several works by Mr. Espinosa.

When the community of artists came under scrutiny in Cuba for anti-government sentiments, many — including Mr. Espinosa — went into self-exile. The artist and his wife spent time in Miami before coming to Los Angeles, where he found work as a commercial artist for department stores. He also painted murals.

By 1977, he was financially able to pursue his fine-art career full-time.

He was “a very high-quality artist,” Cuban art expert Adolfo Nodal told the Orange County Register in 2008, but suffered “from what many Cuban refugee artists suffer from. He left Cuba, was against the government, sort of got blacklisted by the Cuban government and wiped out of the history of Cuban art.”

Mr. Espinosa’s paintings and linocuts were influenced by his Afro-Cuban upbringing in his native Regla, a small town across the bay from Havana. He was born Oct. 14, 1928, and studied art as an adolescent at several Havana schools.

He grew up around “so much folklore that it was a direct influence, and I am still working from that place,” Mr. Espinosa told the Miami Herald in 2003.

Between 1970 and 2009, his art was featured in dozens of exhibitions.

Survivors include his wife of 57 years, Alicia Sanchez Espinosa of Irvine; and a sister.

— Los Angeles Times and staff reports

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