1928 Born on April 16 in Havana, Cuba.
1939 First drawing lessons.
1940 Enters Belen Jesuit Boarding School.
1941 First painting lessons.
1944 Enters La Escuela Elemental de Artes Aplicadas Anexa a San Alejandro.
1946 Graduates from high school and enters San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba.
1948 Goes to New York, studying for a brief period at the Art Students’ league under the direction of George Grosz and Yasuo Kuniyoshi. Returns to Havana the same year, and enters the University of Havana to work on his doctorate in philosophy.
1950 Graduates from San Alejandro Academy and within a year has his first one man show at the Lyceum Gallery, Havana, Cuba.
1951–59 Travels extensively between Cuba, Europe, The United States, and South America.
1951 Abandons studies at the University of Havana.
1953 First one man show in Europe, Galería Buchholz, Madrid, Spain.
1953 Returns to Cuba and develops interest in a brighter palette and still lives.
1955 First one man show in the United States at the Pan American Union, Washington D.C.
1955 Develops interest in landscapes and abandons figure painting.
1957 Awarded Honorable Mention at the Fourth Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
1957 The national school of Architects of Havana awards him a prize which consists of commissioning a ceramic mural.
1959 First one man show in South America at the Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela.
1959 Travels to Europe under a scholarship awarded by the Cuban government.
1959 Moves to Paris, France.
1960 First one man show in Paris at Galerie Fürstenberg directed by Simone Collinet.
1960 Series of erotic drawings and paintings.
1960 Beginning of beige period.
1960–68 Participates regularly in the Salon de Mai, Paris, France
1961 His first son, Clodio, is born on May 18.
1962 First paintings of the Athenea Polimastia series.
1962 First paintings of L’Obssesion Comme Méthode de Pensée Series.
1963 Beginning of black and white period.
1964 Daughter, Clea, is born on April 20.
1968 Produces series of erotic drawings and paintings. Leaves Paris and with his wife Lia destroys three objects, seven collages, eight paintings, and ten drawings.
1968 Moves to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
1969 Son, Sebastian, is born on June 19.
1971 Prepares edition of 20 collages on serigraphy, Galería Colibrí, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
1972 Moves to New York, where he remains until his death.
1970–80 Enters a dark brown period where machine-like forms become prevalent. Creates new objects.
1978 Completes Jose Marti portfolio commemorating 20 years of Cuban exile.
1978 Is awarded Cintas Fellowship.
1980 Snake-like forms appear.
1982 Artist’s mother, Hortensia, who lived with the family, dies.
1983 Exhibits at FIAC, Paris, France.
1987–92 Writes his memoirs (unpublished manuscript).
1985 Subtle return to color.
1989–91 Exhibits once again at the Salon de Mai, Paris, France.
1991–94 Travels several times to Los Angeles, California where he produces his first colossal drawings.
1992 Retrospective, The Art Museum at Florida International University, Miami, Florida.
1999 Casts Venus de Roaix, 6/6 (2 authorized) bronze sculpture, Empire Foundry.
2006 Dies on June 2, six weeks after his wife Lia’s passing on April 22.
Agustín Fernández was born in Havana, Cuba on April 16, 1928 and died in New York City on June 2, 2006. From his career beginnings in Havana through the many years that he spent outside Cuba, which were formative for the independent and international context that would mark his work, Agustín Fernández dedicated himself to the production of paintings, drawings, and graphics. Fernández also created assemblages, sculptures and artist’s books.
Fernández is recognized as an outstanding artist of his generation. His work has been extensively and internationally exhibited and has received copious critical acclaim. It is included in numerous and prestigious public collections and found a popular audience when one of his paintings was featured in the 1980 Brian de Palma film, Dressed to Kill.
Today, his work is most recognizable for its ambiguous and precariously balanced forms, erotic overtones, surreal juxtapositions, and metallic palette. Inspired by the demands of survival in an urban environment and the mundane objects that clutter its alleys and streets, Fernández is a collector on a quest for the substance of creativity, complete with the armor of protection necessary to maneuver through time and place that becomes such an important source of his imagery. Paintings and objects are related and complementary and further complicate the identification of organic versus inorganic forms; human and machine; real and imagined; obsessive and cerebral. Throughout his long and prolific years as an artist, Agustín Fernández was respected as a dedicated professional able to distinguish himself with a unique style and masterful techniques.
Fernández began his studies in Havana, Cuba, at the Escuela Elemental de Artes Aplicadas Anexa a San Alejandro (1944-1946) and the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro (19461950). In 1948, he journeyed to New York for a summer course with George Grosz and Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Students League before returning to Havana, where he studied Philosophy and Languages at the Universidad de La Habana (19481951). He later traveled to Madrid, Spain, where he audited courses at the Academia de San Fernando de Madrid (1953). In 1959, Fernández was granted a scholarship to study painting in Europe by the Ministry of Education, General Cultural Division, Havana. From that point onward he remained abroad, residing in Paris, France from 1959-1968; in San Juan, Puerto Rico from 19681972; and New York City from 1972 until his death.
By the time Fernández arrived in Europe at the age of thirty-one, in addition to a solo exhibition at the Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, he had also had eleven one-man shows that presented his work to audiences in Havana, New York, Madrid, Caracas, and Washington D.C. During the next four decades Fernández went on to have more than 30 solo exhibitions in important galleries, museums, and art fairs around the world. In 1992 The Art Museum, Florida International University organized a major retrospective of his work.
In the course of his career Fernández also participated in over 100 group shows throughout Europe, the United States and Latin America. The first of his more than 30 collective museum exhibitions was in 1958 at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (where he showed again in 1966 and 1967) and the following year he was part of show held at The Art Institute of Chicago. He also took part in the traveling exhibition and major resource publication, The Latin American Spirit: Art and Artists in the United States, 1920-1970, which was originated by The Bronx Museum of Art in New York and traveled to El Paso Museum of Art in El Paso, Texas, The San Diego Museum of Arts in California, El Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña in San Juan and The Center for the Arts in Vero Beach, Florida.
Fernández was also part of numerous important gallery projects including Tanguy Dali Bellmer Fernández Roy at Galerie André Francois Petit in Paris (1966) and Latin America: New Paintings and Sculpture (Juan Downey, Agustín Fernández, Gego, Gabriel Morera) at Center for InterAmerican Relations in New York (1969). More recently, his work was included in the exhibitions, The Coincident Eye: Hans Bellmer, Agustín Fernández, Robert Mapplethorpe, (1997) and In Context: Hans Bellmer, Victor Brauner, Jospeh Cornell, Agustín Fernández, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Carlos Merida (1998), both by 123 Watts Gallery in New York as well as Cundo Bermudez, Agustín Fernández, Emilio Sanchez at ACA Galleries, New York (2004).
Fernández was the recipient of numerous honors. He was awarded a Cintas Foundation Fellowship in 1978. The artist was selected to create a permanent public ceramic mural at the Colegio de Arquitectos in Havana (1957). He was selected to participate in the VIII Salón Nacional de Pintura y Escultura, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana (1956); the Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna de Sao Paulo, (1957-Honorable Mention, 1959); Salon Comparaison, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris (1961, 1964, 1965), and the Salon de Mai, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris and Tokyo (12 times between 1960 and 1993) and the Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano, El Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña in San Juan, Puerto Rico (First, 1970; Third, 1974-Honorable Mention).