On Thursday, Jan. 26, the McMullen Museum felt more like a festival than a gallery. Its student opening, “Rafael Soriano: The Artist as Mystic,” featuring works of the contemporary Cuban painter, bustled with a crowd of Boston College faculty and students. At the entrance, Latin pop music boomed from speakers, while arepas, key lime tarts, and other morsels filled a buffet table and students began the scavenger hunts handed to them at the door.
Soriano’s art was not lost in the lively atmosphere. Upstairs the lighting softened, the music dulled, and the attention was drawn to the walls lined with the artist’s paintings.
First the viewer fixates on Soriano’s abstract, geometric pieces from the 1950s and 1960s. Then, further back in the gallery, his languid, smooth, near-formless designs from later in life take center stage. In Soriano’s words, he “went from geometric painting to a painting that is spiritual.”
Plaques around the room tell the story of Soriano—a man effectively exiled from his Cuban homeland, who resumed his painting in the United States, allowing his personal struggles and emotions to seep into his painting. On the third floor, a glass case displayed newspaper articles and handwritten letters—relics of the artist’s life and heartbreaking exile.
Student employees sat at tables in the gallery to teach others traditional Cuban games. One such employee, Sarya Baladi, MCAS ’19, taught her small crowd Cubilete, a dice game that resembles Yahtzee.
“I think [the students] really, really like it,” Baladi commented on the gallery. “It’s nice to have a contemporary Cuban artist because it will attract more young people and BC students to the museum.”
“I think the museum is definitely improving and expanding,” Baladi added. “Before in Devlin not many people knew about the McMullen; but now in this beautiful, spacious, bright space there’s a better image of the museum… and now I think we’re modernizing and catering to a younger crowd.”
Rafael Soriano’s work will be displayed in this exhibit from Jan. 30 to June 4 at the McMullen Museum.