El gran mambo - Painting by Carlos Luna:
CCG Art Collection, Miami, Florida, USA.
Complejo Cultural Universitario, Puebla, Mexico, August 18, 2009 - January 17, 2010.
Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Florida,
USA, October 2, 2008 - February 23, 2009.
Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach, California, USA, June 12 - August
The Katzen, American University Museum, College of Arts and Sciences, Washington,
D.C., USA, January 29 - March 17, 2008.
Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, Florida, USA, August 24 - November 24, 2007.
Susquehanna Art Museum, Harrisburg Pennsylvania, USA, January 11 - May 5, 2007.
Carlos Luna, Personal Histories, Susquehanna Art Museum, Polk Museum of Art & The
Suzanne H. Arnold Gallery, Lebanon Valley College, p. 44 - 45, Published July 2006,
Illustrated in color.
Carlos Luna, El Gran Mambo, American University Museum, Museum of Latin American
Art (MOLAA), p. 44 - 45, Published 2008, Illustrated in color.
Pablo Picasso Ceramics, Carlos Luna Paintings, p. 105 - 119 (Cat. 20), Published
2008, ISBN: 978-0-9678056-8-9.
El Gran Mambo
Viewers standing before Carlos Luna’s El Gran Mambo… will confront a very clear order
telling them what they must do. In Spanish, the text reads “MIRAME SIEMPRE;” in English,
that command might be rendered literally as “LOOK AT ME ALWAYS,” but more colloquially
one would say “KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME.” This command is written at the center of his
six contiguous sections of extremely diverse images that make up a painting on the
scale of a large mural. Indeed, El Gran Mambo is the summa of Luna’s work so far.
Technically, pictorially, and conceptually, the painting fuses autobiography and
artistic “stand,” and it renders the artist’s particular aesthetic in a single monumental
ideogram. The figures and graphic characters that appear in this work are found in
Luna’s entire oeuvre, and so the painting-mural might be seen as the great curtain
that opens to reveal the multifaceted stage on which each of the artist’s individual
paintings is played out.
But why “gran mambo” — Big Mambo — and not, for example, “gran salsa”? Why one musical
genre instead of another? For those of us who read the titles of many of Luna’s paintings
and the texts that appear within them, it’s no secret that Carlos Luna is more than
a mere fan of Cuban and Antillean music of the people. He is a connoisseur and a
scholar of African-origin music, and has been a practitioner of that art — a bongo-player,
to be precise — since the age of nine, when he would sneak out of his house in the
tobacco town of San Luis, Cuba, in the state of Pinar del Río, where he was born
in 1969, and go join the group that would be livening up the festivities at a scruffy,
noisy pick-up bar nearby.
The “mambo” that the unforgettable Pérez Prado introduced to the world in 1951, after
a decade of musical experimentation — in his likewise unforgettable recording of
Qué rico el mambo — has a longer tradition, and a nobler musical and folkloric ancestry,
than the salsa. “Mambo” is a word in the Bantu language of Africa that means “conversation
with the gods,” and it points to the drums used in religious rituals. Thus, in its
references to music, history, and the worship of the African gods, “mambo” is profoundly
linked to Carlos Luna’s Afro-Cuban aesthetic and world-view.
- Enrique Garcia Gutierrez ©