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Daniel Serra-Badué: Dreamt Reality


Marsh Art Gallery


Daniel Serra-Badué is an artist of uncompromising vision who dwells upon memory as if it were tangible. "All that we see or seem - Is but a dream within a dream," wrote Edgar Allan Poe , and Serra-Badué seeks to place his audience within that dream. His evocative images compel us toward experiences that combine described reality with surreal impossibilities and dreamlike remembrances. Serra-Badué's world is a world of dreamt reality.

The lithographs in this exhibition, ranging in date from 1964 to 1992, demonstrate Serra-Badué's mastery of clarity of line, exactitude of form, and precisely modulated tonality. The artist has stated, "The sobriety of this medium seems to reflect more accurately something that is more remembered than seen; it pretends to synthesize the context of tropical opulence in spare symbol of its existence. After all, a construction is always an anchor that helps find what we are in the receding tides of what we recall." Serra-Badué limits himself to a linear, monochromatic use of lithography in his carefully executed compositions. His approach heightens our awareness of the levels that lie just beneath the surface of things as they appear in the real world.

Serra-Badué was influenced by Surrealism early in his life, and he continues to find inspiration in the ideas first put forth by that art movement. The Surrealists were intrigued with depicting seemingly contradictory states of being, such as dreaming and waking, in images that went beyond reality, or were surreal. Serra-Badué elegantly achieves this visual surrealism. His work puts the viewer into a real place, yet contrasting elements turn this place into an enigmatic world. Normal expectations are suspended by encounters with an imprisoned shopping bag, an impossible step, a newspaper about to be run over by a trolley, or a musical instrument attempting to fly to the moon. Dynamic shafts of light impose abstract forms on realistic street scenes, breaking the illusion; decorative grillwork takes on an obsessive personality, revealing and simultaneously obscuring our view; shadows are as palpable as the objects they delineate. "Nothing is more surreal than reality," notes the artist. Serra-Badué reveals the mysterious and the sensuous in the realities that surround us every day.

Scenes of his birthplace, Santiago de Cuba, are a recurring theme in Serra-Badué's work; the city's architecture and atmosphere are redolent with memories of things past. Founded in 1514, Santiago is one of the oldest Spanish colonial cities in the New World. When Winslow Homer visited there in 1885, he wrote that Santiago "is certainly the richest field for an artist that I have ever seen," and he produced a beautiful series of watercolors depicting street scenes. The city remains a rich field for Serra-Badué as well, and we sense in these lithographs his love for the streets and houses of his youth.

For Daniel Serra-Badué, physical architecture holds "metaphysical levels that do not exclude but, on the contrary, make visible my central motivation for their realization: the desire of concretizing elusive remembrances." For us, his haunting images of human experience - whether dreamt reality or realized dreams - have an engaging surrealism that relentlessly draws us toward an inner reality.

Richard Waller
Marsh Art Gallery, University of Richmond

Publication Date



University of Richmond Museums


Richmond, VA


Daniel Serra-Badué, lithographs, surrealism, dreamt reality, University of Richmond Museums, Marsh Art Gallery


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Daniel Serra-Badué: Dreamt Reality