Noel Guzman Boffill (b. 1954)
Noel Guzmán Bofill Rojas, born in Remedios, Cuba, in 1954, always had a restless and extroverted personality. He came from a humble family, but cultural concerns and coming from a marginal neighborhood compelled him to come up with ways to counter the anxieties of those popular but restricted expressions that his local environment encompassed. A self-taught artist whose works include painting, installation, sculpture, and performance, he enjoys oral expression and presentations, displaying a special passion for improvisation and the composition of refrains that are humorous, erotic, or honorific. Throughout his turbulent life he has also been a clown; an actor; a dishwasher; a street vendor of tamales, anoncillo fruit, peanuts, cashews, and newspapers; a shoe shiner; a street-sweeper; a cleaner; a kitchen helper; a waiter; a construction worker; a well-builder; a speaker who provides the final words prior to burials; a street musician; a sugar cane cutter; a framing carpenter; a tinsmith; a mattress maker; a professor of Spanish and Athletics; an instructor of chess and ping-pong; a runner (known to many under the name of Juantorena); and an international soldier during the war in Angola.
His paintings possess an unquestionable strength across themes that range from landscapes to the social, the religious, and the historic. In his religious images he emphasizes depictions of virgins and of Christ; most of these reflect the aesthetic of prison tattoos, a result of his personal experiences. In his landscapes he occasionally incorporates proverbs, poems, and other literary allegories, scrawled out in his raw calligraphy. His portraits usually feature Revolutionary leaders, a theme for which he shows a rather curious obsession, while his self-portraits may transform his own image into characters from history and universal culture. He possesses a style that is completely original and that escapes any particular classification, but which is nurtured and develops from the confluence of various characteristics typically linked to the naïve, the brut, and the contemporary.
Bofill has been awarded numerous awards and honors, he has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, and his works are held in both public and private collections. Through the visual arts Bofill expresses his own particular philosophy of life, which fuses reality with theatricality, the mystical, the erotic, the humorous, the absurd, and the poetic. In his incessant interest in showing and sharing his art he has converted his house into a true artist sanctuary where the collections of works of art and objects of daily life don’t merely coexist but merge in order to create a cryptic yet welcoming environment. The internal and external walls, as well as part of the ceilings, have been decorated with his extensive painted murals, and the fragments of works dispersed around the bedrooms are utilized with transparency and a rare elegance.
Bofill has lived in this house with his wife Maritza Atanes (with whom, as of this writing, he has been married 36 years) since 2001. Their son Dariel grew up here as well, and he and his mother are also dedicated to painting. Approaching Bofill’s house – which is also his studio – means approaching his private life and discovering more than 500 meters of murals (including those on the roof), different found objects, or pieces of painted ceramic earthenware: the creative universe of an insatiable artist. Bofill paints on the walls when he doesn’t have canvas or other supports on which to paint, but when the urge to do so can’t be suppressed; he incorporates art into his reality in an eruption of plenitude and spirituality. He even encapsulates images that have been pulled from a strange subconsciousness, a daily dialogue in which he re-lives them and makes them part of his own family. While all of these works serve as windows into the artist’s life and thoughts, Bofill’s house has come to physically constitute the single largest representation of the artist himself.