Luis Cruz Azaceta, Cuban (1942 - )

Luis Cruz Azaceta was born on Easter Sunday, 1942.  His parents were of Basque and Asturian ancentry; "Azaceta" means "from A to Z" in the Basque alphabet.  He grew up in the Marianao section of Havana, where his father worked for 33 years for the Cuban Air Force as an airplane mechanic; his mother was a housewife.  At the Sabrina Garrido Academy, Azaceta showed artistic talent, but it was not indulged.

He always wanted to be a pilot and he had barely started instrument training when Batista fled from Cuba.  The fanaticism of both sides of the Revolution appalled him and he decided to try to emigrate.  It was in 1960; he stood in line three days and nights at the American Embassy and received a visa to settle permanently in the United States.  He came alone and his parents and sisters joined him several years later.

He settled in Hoboken, New Jersey and worked in a trophy factory for three years before he began to use his artistic talents, he began taking life-drawing classes at an adult education center in Queens while working during the day in various factory jobs.  Eventually, in 1966 he enrolled full time at the School of Visual Arts, working nights as a clerk in the library of New York University.  He kept the job until 1980.  He had received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1969.  Then he went on to win a series of prestigious grants, including a Guggenheim and two from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

In 1975, he made a list of galleries in which he would like to show his work.  He visited the Allan Frumkin Gallery, casually dressed and carrying some of his canvases, although he knew well the traditional procedure, and Mr. Frumkin accepted his work.  He has been associated with Frumkin ever since.

In 1980, he moved to the West Coast, where he taught at the University of California at Davis and then at Berkeley.  But his work started to lose its power, its edge and he moved back to New York.

Azaceta is a fast, prolific painter who never suffers blocks, never scuffles with the empty canvas as writers sometimes do with the empty page.  There is always some new social ill to record, and some new way to portray it.

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