Ernesto Briel Cuban, 1943-1993

Born in 1943, Cuban artist Ernesto Briel found inspiration in Optical Art amidst the constraints and limitations of his native country in the two decades following the triumph of the Cuban revolution. Facing both the isolation imposed by the US cultural embargo of the sixties, and the relentless persecution by the Castro regime against homosexuality during the early seventies, Briel found motivation in these challenges that would nurture his prolific artistic life. He was instrumental in the circulation of geometric abstraction in Cuba at this time and is considered the precursor as well as founder of the Optical art movement in Havana. Many of his artworks were printed in Signos; a national magazine published in a conscious effort to prevent cultural isolation and that made of Briel an iconic figure of the times. Briel left Cuba through the Mariel boatlift in 1980 and continued his practice in New York, receiving the Cintas Foundation fellowship award in 1989 and exhibiting in a number of solo and group shows. These exhibitions included the now historically relevant Duo Geo show in 1992, which featured Briel’s work alongside his friend and fellow Cuban artist, Carmen Herrera. Briel died due to AIDS related complications in 1993. His legacy lives through the myriad of challenges he overcame and his commitment to his artistic practice, through the international language of Op Art, as a mean to transcend the socio political limitations of his circumstances and widen his cultural boundaries.