BC’s McMullen Museum of Art exhibits Wifredo Lam

Wifredo Lam’s “Composición, I” is among his works in a Boston College show.
Wifredo Lam’s “Composición, I” is among his works in a Boston College show.

CONNECTING WITH WIFREDO LAM: Elizabeth Goizueta, a professor in the Hispanic studies section of Boston College’s department of Romance languages and literatures, has known ever since she first came across paintings by artist Wifredo Lam that she wanted someday to curate an entire exhibition devoted to his work.

She just did not anticipate that it would take a full 10 years to bring that show to light.

But a decade of research, travel, and conversation in pursuit of her goal has finally come to fruition in “Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds,” opening Saturday at Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art. The exhibition features more than 40 of the Surrealist’s paintings, drawings, etchings, and lithographs, drawn from major public and private collections in Europe, Latin America, and the United States and shown together for the first time.


Goizueta became aware of Lam’s work while she was curating an exhibition by Chilean painter Roberto Matta.

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“I mentioned at that time to Nancy Netzer, director of the McMullen Museum, that the next time we focused on a Latin American artist, it should be Wifredo Lam,” Goizueta said. “But it was very complicated. Lam spent much of his career in Cuba, and although I spent a lot of time building relationships at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, we were not able to get those paintings from Cuba. Nonetheless, the wonderful connections I made there still made much of this exhibit possible, and the curator of the avant-garde wing at the museum in Havana is contributing to our catalog for this exhibition.

“In a certain way it was a disappointment not be able to include all the works we wanted, but the process of trying to do so very much enriched this exhibition.”

Lam, who was born in 1902 and lived to be 80, bore the influence of many cultures, nations, and ethnicities because of his own heritage — his mother was of Spanish-African descent and his father was Chinese — and because of the many places he lived, which included not only Cuba but also Spain, France, and other parts of Europe.

“He was quite an itinerant traveler and was exposed to almost all of the most significant aesthetic and literary movements of the 20th century,” said Goizueta. Lam spent significant time in the United States as a visitor, but never became widely known in the American art world.


For a university museum, Goizueta said, Lam’s range is particularly important.

“In today’s multiracial, multicultural world, it’s really interesting to see a figure like Lam who stretches across so many boundaries and ethnicities. His vision of art cannot really be labeled or categorized into one specific area,” Goizueta said.

“His was the kind of multiculturalism that makes our cities so vibrant today,” said Netzer, who is also a professor of art history at Boston College. “And yet part of reason he wasn’t more well known was that it was hard to characterize him, and he moved around so much. He lived a long time. His style kept evolving.”

Lam counted among his personal influences Spanish, French, and Latin American avant-garde artists and writers including Pablo Picasso, André Breton, Federico García Lorca, Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez, and Aimé Césaire.

“He was exposed to all these wonderful periods of the 20th century, time periods that were rich artistically but also in literary sense,” Goizueta said. “In this exhibition, we’ve tried to emphasize his literary connections to writers and poets as well as other painters.”


The exhibition will run through Dec. 14, with an opening reception Sunday at 7 p.m., at the McMullen Museum, 140 Commonwealth Ave. in Chestnut Hill. Admission is free. For hours and more information, call 617-552-8100 or go to www.bc.edu/artmuseum.

MUSICAL PREVIEW: Bedford-based singer-songwriter Tim Gartland will perform at the Colonial Inn in Concord at 7:30 p.m. Friday, just 11 days before the official release of his second full-length album, “Million Stars.”

There’s no cover charge for his show in the inn’s Village Forge Tavern, on Monument Square in Concord Center. For more information, call 978-371-2908, or go to www.concordscolonialinn.com/entertainment or www.timgartland.com.

Send ideas to nancyswest@gmail.com.