Twenty years ago, while I was curator at the Jersey City Museum, I wrote a brief text on Lia Galletti’s paintings. If I recall correctly, I stressed the painterly quality of her abstractions, and their ability to evoke the real world where she lived and worked, with its epiphanies and emptiness. She has asked me for another text on the occasion of a catalogue of her recent paintings, and I am pleased to comply.
Ms. Galletti was born in the city of Havana, where she pursued her studies in art. Like many, she went into exile in 1960, continuing her art education at Queens College (New York City) and at the Metropolitan Museum Art Center (Miami). She first received attention for her prints, which possessed technical virtuosity, but I would add was not the medium suited to her temperament.
She has written that her painting is intuitive, organic, grounded on the adventure of experiment. I could not agree with her more. Hers is an intuitive sensibility, where an open ended poetic is the driving force behind her forceful pourings, drips and gestural brushstrokes. Like other women who have made gestural abstraction their own language (Mitchell, Krasner, Frankenthaler), Galletti is not a “delicate painter” but a forceful one. Energy runs through her surfaces like electricity through wires. In paintings like Smoke, Séance, Trance and Stripped – to mention just four – we see colors evoke worlds, states of mind and being, without ever falling into the descriptive or illustrative. These paintings grab the spectator by the lapels, and through our eyes fill us with the dynamic breath of life.
Alejandro Anreus, PhD
Professor of Art History and Latin American Studies
William Paterson University
New Jersey, August 20, 2021
Abstraction as Liberation: Some thoughts on Lia Galletti's new paintings
A number of decades ago Theodor Adorno asked the rhetorical, yet profound question of how could anyone write poetry after Auschwitz? This question also meant, in terms of the visual arts, how could one paint the figure after seeing it mutilated with such brutality? At its worst the response to this has been an art where figuration is so grotesque that it borders on the pornographic. Another response has been the exploration of abstraction, while transcending the limits of formalism. It is in this embattled zone, where I situate Galletti's newest paintings.
These are acrylic on canvas that on the whole measures roughly 60 by 52 inches. The paintings are generally vertical in format, and they are painted with such textural and coloristic richness, that they lack the flat, plastic quality so typical of acrylic paints. The titles, So Far, Oracle, Manifestation, Angel, Friend, Death Dies and Stress, are a kind of poetic shorthand which establishes that these paintings are more than just about painting, but reflective of an open ended narrative that can be both quotidian and mythical. The spray painted numbers and signs do bring the urban iconography of graffiti to mind, but they are also transcended, reminding us of shamanistic symbols tilling the void of life. These paintings are electric, their surfaces pulsating with a syncopated planar tension that draws the viewer into the composition. The pioneers of abstraction (Kandinsky, Malevitch, Mondrian, and Kupka) forged abstract vocabularies that were grounded in a world of realities. Then came the formalist critics and divested the work of their meanings. Galletti is very concious of this ruptured tradition - her paintings, formally and conceptually have meanings - they evoke the heat of daily life, the lyricism of the urban, perhaps even the desolation of a place like Miami. They are moments of visual liberation, where a stain, a gesture of color can express narrative and meaning, and a sprayed number 6. They are anti-figural epiphanies.
Alejandro Anreus, PhD
Jersey City Museum
New Jersey, 2001
I learned of the existence of Lia Galletti and her work while in Cuba, at the end of the 80s, when I had the opportunity to see the book Art of Cuba In Exile, by José Gómez-Sicre. Later, when I arrived in Miami in 1995 from Spain, I met her in person at one of the exhibitions in which we both participated. From that moment on and for the last 24 years we have maintained permanent contact and our works have coincided on several occasions in group shows, I have even written and published reviews about her painting.
From 1960 when she arrived in North America until 1980 she continued her studies at the City University of NY and in courses at the Metropolitan Museum Art Center; From that moment on, she has followed a path that distinguishes her as an artist, an intellectual, as well as for the seriousness in the efforts she has set for herself, always standing out precisely for her seriousness and complete dedication to the projects she has joined. I must emphasize that marked by the NY school and abstract expressionism, at a time when the atmosphere created by its propositions was still breathed there, since then she considered assimilating and evolving abstraction from her particular approach, being able to say that she experiences it and develops following its extensions, which maintain this trend in the present and contributing.
At this point I would highlight beyond the dripping and the textures, the strength of the movement itself, the almost dance-like expressiveness of the features, the energy shown by the colors, and therefore a joyful action, as part of a genuine concept that deals with capturing a certain explosion of life, manifesting from painting to painting an ideal expressive coherence. Any recognition of her is the reaffirmation of a sustained quality and an honorable career, because I think that these qualities should weigh more than those that sometimes aim simply to highlight the latest fashion statement.
An artist whose entire work has been created outside of Cuba, Lia Galletti, offers a series that drives her customary abstract expressionism to the maximum unfolding of energy, nevertheless achieving a serene and optimistic composition. Lia proposes to view forms of her world in vibrant colors behind a superimposed dripping like a skein of lines that banish melancholy to resemble a rainfall of an explosive and happy piñata.
Aldo Menéndez, Art Curator and Critic, Miami, 2020
When she took her first steps in art, Lia Galletti (1943) was most likely exposed to the last swipes of Informalism. Henceforward, Abstraction brands her as she integrates into its Expressionist dimension, with the result that these aspects and gestural elements lead her to dabble as well in New Expressionist representation that in addition appropriates distant chords of the Cobra Group. One never tires of searching for faces in this abstract style, as when we try to read the clouds, a camouflage of colors and forms from which we can unravel feelings and secrets. Lia, a mature and consummate artist, may be defined as an Imaginist who convinces us that Action Painting can also be figurative in style.
Art Curator and Critic
Miami, April 18, 2016
For its part, the pictorial and graphic work of Lía Galletti reveals to us the essence of the vital and personal search of her work. The pictorial quality of her plastic work is focused on the interpretative power of her compositions, in which are evident the experimentation and renewed energy of an expressive manifestation of her context, as a true expression of her identity. It forms a series of pictorial representations marked by a particular content, conceived from a fascinating technical promiscuity, whose baroque conception denotes the thinking of someone interested in explaining the phenomena of art from her melancholy about the past, together with the recognition of the current period, masterfully conceived to advocate the cult for oil painting to enjoy the conquest of her relevant visual aspirations in each delivery.
Former Contemporary Art Curator,
National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba
Miami, June 17, 2019
Lia Galletti (Havana, 1943) painter and designer, makes sporadic inroads in the figure though the gestural power of the representation keeps them near abstraction. An artist with a long and fruitful career, abstraction is ostensibly the best path to express herself. Her paintings offer the viewer a banquet of color, rich visual textures, dynamic forms that swirl together or against each other with jubilant intensity. Surprisingly, her black and white paintings, albeit austere, are equally authentic. Her art conveys a wide range of nuanced emotions, a spiritual harvest that undoubtedly stems from profound life experiences -which are never always good. Nonetheless, she transforms these raw subjective materials, valiantly and brilliantly, in ways devoid of negativity. An art that rewards the viewer with clarity and visual pleasure.
Alberto Jorge Carol
Miami, July 27, 2017
Lia Galletti: Dispersion and Counterpoint
The art of Lia Galletti is a proposal for total abstraction. It also constitutes a search for meanings of the inner self. Therefore her discourse is both an inquiry and the result of a radical dip into the subconscious. The sum of her work comes from an open, vital attitude that she has kept at a distance throughout her career from the obsolete residuals of art history and her profound commitment to creativity. Stylistically she has a direct link to Abstract Expressionism and the Action Painting School of New York with a lateral approach to Surrealism. Having explored similar venues as Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler and Roberto Matta, pre assimilation with the teachings of Kandinsky, her iconography was developed early. She keeps a steady pace of work every day at her studio or at the computer. Recently her schedule of exhibits at various cities in the United States has nearly doubled.
The brilliant chromatic charge of her palette may provoke that the viewer be impacted sensorily at the outset, but the abundance of enigmatic imagery carries the mind into the metaphysical. The core of this exhibit are six paintings under the aegis of the new millennium. Idea is a requiem for a child stillborn from suffocation by the umbilical cord; one sees an ominous twisted rope unwinding above a space in grisaille. Conversely Lio Vital in cadmium reds is a vibrant response to the struggle of life. History, Life Beyond Recognition and Paloma Roja depict different scenarios of the dualities of life. Así (Like It Is) as the title suggests, has a loose open composition that leads the eye beyond the horizon. There is an appearance of more recognizable iconography in some of the new work, but as Galletti puts it: “It comes and goes, in my paintings there is often the unexpected.”
No other painter in the Cuban galaxy has achieved the degree of mastery in abstraction that comes so natural to her. In the fifties a group called Los Once that pioneered Abstraction made it briefly in the Havana art scene but when the Revolution went ballistics at international politics it faded away. In 1960 Galletti left Cuba and went to New York.
Spontaneous in the application of pigments with brush, spatula or her fingers over canvas or paper, her paintings erupt echoing the drama of saturated chromaticism of the Caribbean. In analogy with the tonal variations of baroque music, that which is quintessential is what distinguishes Galletti in a category of her own - dispersion and counterpoint of light and shadow.
Luis Lastra, art critic and historian
Open Windows to a Musical Experience
Throughout her career Lia Galletti has created a pictorial language based in one element: the radical exploration of the subconscious translated into abstract forms, free and untied from heavy cultural conventions. This results in a spontaneous world drenched in color and drama, like the Caribbean Ocean that surrounds the Floridian landscape. Her paintings are open windows to a musical experience.
Luis Lastra, art critic and historian
Su distintiva marca profusamente pintada da sentido hacia una curiosidad que va desapareciendo en una riqueza de colores sobre ideas y la mirada regida por criterios falsabraga de todos modos. Lia no posterga su abundante cromatismo y nos va acercando hacia una realidad inexistente. Desde sus primeras incursiones en el terreno artístico su obra llamó la atención de la c rítica del Washington Post y su batalla ha ganado una exaltada presencia, lo que podría ser igualado, lo sustituye y lo convierte en pura casualidad, luego lo afirma como razón a la realidad, lo aprecia, lo desaparece y hasta hacerlo inmensurable.
Her lavishly painted distinctive mark hints at a vanishing curiosity in a wealth of colors about ideas and the philosophy judged gaze anyway. Lia does not postpone her abundant chromaticism and she brings us closer to a non-existent reality. Since her first forays into the artistic field, her work caught the attention of critics from the Washington Post and her battle has gained an exalted presence, which could be matched, replaces it and turns it into pure chance, then affirms it as a reason to reality, appreciates it, disappears it and even makes it immeasurable.
Alvaro de la Rocha
Art critic, Washington DC, 2000