ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries of Coral Gables, which has introduced historically significant artists and art movements to this region and the nation since 1974, made art history again on Friday, Nov. 4th with the first solo exhibition in the United States of Cuban artist José Angel Vincench.

The Havana-based artist, who has held one-person exhibitions in Canada, Ecuador, the Republic of Cameroon, Switzerland, and leading galleries in Cuba, along with participating in five dozen group shows in leading galleries in North and South America and Europe, will exhibit more than 150 new paintings and wall-mounted installations of canvas and paper “shopping bags” shaped into letters from his two new series, Dissident and Exile.

Fourteen of the four-foot Dissident paintings, each in a different language, will be in “Vincench vs Vincench: A Dissident Dialogue from Cuba.” Vincench superimposes a stencil of the definition of dissent in each language over an abstract painting, obscuring parts of the words with a white overlay that allows a faint suggestion of the original painting to be seen.

In her El Nuevo Herald review on Sept. 4th curator and art critic Janet Batet noted that “With a highly rigorous conceptual proposal, Vincench bases his work in art history-specifically the Cuban tradition of abstract art-deconstructing the Cuban reality and encouraging a critical reading. Relying, as central subject, in the social and religious entity that embodies the Cuban, the artist undertakes research areas, typical of sociology, integrating popular beliefs, personal life experiences and current sociopolitical events of recent history of the island.”

In this instance, the artist is targeting the sociopolitical phenomena of dissent. “In Cuba, a dissident is the very worst thing you can be,” Vincench explains. “No one wants to be associated with a dissident. Because I am an artist, an intellectual, I see things differently. I want to show people that dissidence is just another way of looking at something.”

His other way of looking at something turns out to be spectacular, according to gallery owner-director Virginia Miller. “Although these are paintings of words, Vincench’s extraordinary technique transforms them into gorgeous semi-abstractions,” she said.

Rounding out the “Exile” portion of the show are smaller canvases with partially obliterated definitions of dissent and exile, along with five paintings of brick “houses” whose exterior walls can be grouped together to spell out the letters E X I L E. A companion work, planned for the Havana Biennial, is a series of small white houses mounted on trailers. A preview of that project will be displayed on a gallery laptop.

Another element in the exhibition is a one-meter tall Christmas tree created by Vincench in conjunction with the annual “Festival of the Trees” being held at the Coral Gables Museum to benefit the interior architecture department of Florida International University. Vincench’s “Reconciliation” tree is crafted of deeply incised cedar slats, each bearing a part of the definition of reconciliation in Spanish on one side and English on the other, elaborating on his themes of dissidence and exile.

Born in Holguin, Cuba, in 1973, Vincench attended the school of plastic arts and high school there before being accepted at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana. He began exhibiting at the Holguin Center of Art in 1992.

Works by Vincench are included in such collections as the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana and have been exhibited in major art fairs and at the Barbican Centre in London.

Greater Miami’s longest-established contemporary fine art gallery, ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries is located in downtown Coral Gables at 169 Madeira Avenue. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment on Saturday. For more information, call 305-444-4493.

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