Juan was interviewed by Cheryl Edwards on Zoom on August 20, 2020. His studio is located in Havana, Cuba; however this interview took place in Palmas of Tocantins State, Brazil where he has been working and living at an art residency studio for the last year and a half. He is waiting to be able to return to Cuba once the COVID pandemic travel restrictions are lifted.
I first met Juan Picasso in 2014 in Cuba. The purpose of the trip was to visit an exhibition curated by Ben Jones titled “African American Artists and Abstraction” at the Museo de la Ciudad, organized to honor late poetess and revolutionary activist Jayne Cortez who was also one of the nine artists featured in the exhibition. I spent two weeks with a large group of U.S. creatives, museum directors, curators and artists and it was during this time I got to know Juan Picasso.
Juan’s practice is primarily painting with an extreme twist on process. His focus is consistently about Afro Cubans and iconography of the traditional African religions. His use of iconography in this instance gives one a sense of his total identity; both internal and external. During his residency in Brazil he has pushed his processes further. He is now creating work mixing oil paint and water. The results are intensive textures on the surfaces. One of the Iconographic symbols; which he said can be found in all of his work, is a sketch of a wheel; which is a metaphor of himself.
A question that Juan Picasso is commonly asked is if he is related to famous Spanish artist Pablo Picasso? The answer is yes.
His family made this fact public in a 1999 documentary, “Los Picassos Negros” (“The Black Picassos”). http://www.artnet.com/magazine/reviews/rosa/rosa9-6-00.asp. The story unfolded from the beginning where Pablo Picasso’s maternal grandfather, Francisco Picasso Guardeno, left Spain in the late 1800s to pursue business opportunities in Cuba. Francisco died in Cuba in 1888; but not before he married and had four children with an Afro-Cuban woman, Cristina Serra. That Afro Cuban woman, wife of Francisco Picasso Guardeno is Juan Antonia Picasso’s great, great grandmother. There are remaining about 20 descendants (Picassos) living in Cuba today. Juan is the only artist in this lineage.
This simple yet tantamount statement implicates the sordid histories of European Colonialism where black and brown people were and currently are systemically and institutionally subjugated from the complete political, economic, cultural and social standpoint.
Juan Picasso studied art for four years in the private studio of Rogelio David Nunez who was the Chair of the painting program at the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts. Juan has exhibited his work in the United States, Europe, South Africa, South America and Cuba.
So much of art history is distorted because of the failure to include important artists of color in the story. Decolonization of the canon of art and art history must occur and be restructured to present authentic narratives of truth and inclusion. I chose to interview Juan Picasso for TSV for this reason; to shed light on the truth of these important facts such as this one of Pablo Picasso as well as to feature an amazing artist who is proud of his Afro Cuban heritage.
His work is available for purchase here: https://juan-a-picassoel-picasso-cubano.artelista.com/?fbclid=IwAR1HewsKLOWgEBgTxdTkeHZf0eaI1rGTsxt3mTaAPhfJa9rASIKh8lgDmlM
All Photos are Courtesy of the artist, Juan Picasso.