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Wifredo Lam. In perhaps his most famous work of art, entitled The Jungle, Lam puts many powerful symbols on display. It is the undertaking of this essay to explore this renowned work of art, and to discover the intent of Lams symbols and subtlet

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Cuban surrealist artist Wifredo Lam (1902-1982) was renowned for his unique style which combined his rich cultural heritage with the social issues that inspired him. Throughout his life he traveled many places and learned from some of the most famous artists to ever create art, namely, Pablo Picasso. Lam has become an international symbol for the form of surrealism, along with the Chilean artist Roberto Matta (1911-2002). In perhaps his most famous work of art, entitled "The Jungle," Lam puts many powerful symbols on display. It is the undertaking of this essay to explore this renowned work of art, and to discover the intent of Lam's symbols and subtleties. By doing so, the observer can place into context the many symbols and underlying meanings that make up the work of Lam. He used these symbols and subtleties to draw attention to the plight of the African descended Cubans living in a social quagmire. It was his intention to bring these issues to the rest of the world, who were unaware of the poor social status of African descendants in Cuba. Wifredo Lam was born the last of nine children in 1911 to Yam Lam and his second wife. Yam Lam had immigrated to Cuba from Canton, Ohio, and was of Chinese descent. At the time of his son Wifredo's birth, Yam Lam was already eighty-four years old. Wifredo's mother was a mulatto woman with some American Indian blood. ...read more.


Regardless of the significance of the sugarcane plants, it helps to create a feeling of a very small, cramped space. The mood is almost one of frustration and claustrophobia. It also seems that this scene is in the moonlight, or a scarcely lit area. Barnitz labels the sugarcane background as a "symbol of servitude,4" and Lam himself describes what he was attempting to portray in this part of his work: ...the title has nothing to do with the real countryside in Cuba, where there is no jungle, but woods, hills and open country, and the background of the picture is a sugarcane plantation. My intention was to communicate a psychic state.5 This establishes that whatever occurrences transpire in the jungle is disapproved of by Lam. By "psychic state," Lam meant he was attempting to portray an event or area that was in a sort of a manic funk. It is easy for the observer to understand this psychic state that Lam was attempting to portray. When initially observing "The Jungle," one struggles to process what is occurring. The dark colors and schemes of cubist figures that intertwine are difficult to interpret. I believe this is how Lam attempted to make the observer notice the "psychic state" of the subjects in the painting. The subjects of "The Jungle" are four intertwining, cubist women who seem to share a body with the foliage surrounding them. ...read more.


It gives the feeling of uneasiness, or some kind of repulsion. It is well documented that Picasso and Lam were close friends during their time together in France, and this similarity in their work is not that surprising. From studying "The Jungle" in detail, the meaning of the painting is very apparent. Wifredo Lam was attempting to reach the outside world and alert them to the poor conditions that the blacks were living in. His use of surrealism plays with symbols to our unconscious thoughts and feelings. The use of the African masks identifies the blacks that he is concentrating on, while at the same time referring to the world of Santeria. He uses the image of scissors to convey a sense of desperation and turmoil from the black community. Lam also included distinctly disproportionate bodies to accentuate the growing problem of prostitution in Cuba. By combining all of these features, Lam paints a very clear picture to the observer on his views about his home country. I originally selected this piece because it caught my eye with its vivid, enthusiastic color and unusual style. My attraction was one that was purely aesthetic, as if I had seen a beautiful woman. Beyond the way it catches the eye, "The Jungle" sends its observers a powerful and stoic message about the unacceptable social standing of the black people of Cuba. It seeks to play off of our unconscious thoughts in relation to the African masks, the scissors and the strangely distorted body parts. This work of art displays a message to its observers, and it is a powerful one. ...read more.

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