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Franco Azzinari meets Fidel Castro Ruz for the first time on November 6, 2000, in Avenida de los Presidentes in Havana, during the erection of a statue dedicated to the Mexican President Benito Juárez (1806-1872). The artist goes at the event together with Miguel Barnet who, as a Member of the Cuban Government, allows him to overcome all the police checks. "The excitement was great - Azzinari says -. The Commander greeted me very cordially, and I told him I was in love with his country and explained him the work I was making about Cuba. He made me realize that it was already informed of everything".

In May 2001, the Cuban Minister of Culture Avel Prieto called Azzinari to tell him that Fidel Castro wanted to invite him for dinner: "That evening -Azzinari remembers- we were seven, including Miguel Barnet, Avel Prieto and Charles Lager. Dinner started at 10:00 pm and ended at 4:00 am. I remember that after two hours Fidel, always dressed in army fatigues, has been absent for about fifteen minutes to get some stretch and, on his return, I noticed that he had put on his sneakers. While eating fish, the Leader Maximo spoke a lot about the revolution. To tell the truth, I was more focused on analyzing his face, as he spoke, and the gestured with his hands, which had tapered and well-groomed fingernails. Fidel was happy to be portrayed and I took the opportunity to ask him to pose for me for some sketches. That evening I had a great privilege in being in the company of a true legend, a living legend. After dinner, I greeted him with a ‘VIVA FIDEL, VIVA CUBA!’ And he responded me by saying ‘VIVA FRANCO, VIVA ITALY!’ The next day, on my way to the airport, I could not stop thinking of the Commander and how to immortalize him. I analyzed a lot Fidel's figure and on my return to Italy I have devoted to him, with great pleasure, an oil painting on canvas of the size of cm. 50x70".

After about ten years, Azzinari matured the idea of dedicating to Fidel Castro twenty paintings, almost always showing his hands moving in synchronism with the movement of his lips, as if also the hands were able to talk. On July 5, 2012, at the Casa del Alba Cultural de La Habana, has been inaugurated El Rostro de la Historia, an exhibition which includes twenty paintings by Azzinari in black and white (oil on canvas, cm. 100x100), plus twenty blow-ups taken by photographer Alex Castro, son of the Leader Maximo.

Miguel Barnet

Azzinari Barnet

It is certain that the poets
capture moments of life
and fix them in history.
Generally the past
vague and nostalgic.
Or the immediate present
with its subtle fires
and its reverberations.
But how hard is to grasp the future
and place it forever
in the lives of all poets,
of all men.

Two men, two artists, dare to pick up the most eloquent gestures, the wise and thoughtful look and the most complete profile of a man who lit up his time, the future time that was always his: Fidel Castro. In this exhibition, Franco Azzinari, with devotion and skill, and Alex Castro with affection and acute objective, show us a man in his full maturity, a man who changed the destiny of a continent and gave his country all the dignity lost in the past. Here it is a different Fidel, intimate and familiar.

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The key to eternity of the American Commander who dreamed José Martí lies in the eyes of both creators, who were able to capture the invisible, what is beyond a face, what reveals the mystery of a life for which the action had more value than words and the usefulness of virtue was his greatest sign.

Franco Azzinari, Italian, Alex Castro, Cuban, have succeeded in harmonious symbiosis, with lens and brush, with brush and lens, in collocating Fidel in its authentic greatness, that of a work of dedication to the human species. Thanks to him the truth, as José Martí said, "continues its march unharmed on earth."

With this exhibition stands the closest and most artistic interpretation of a lifetime. The faithful portrait and the unfathomable dimension of an exceptional human being.

Both Franco Azzinari and Alex Castro, each in their own way and with their own resources, shaped the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution in his most recent appearance, in the joyful intimacy of his busy daily life. The warrior, the intellectual, the writer, the revolutionary thinker appear here in the fullness of black and white as a revelation of the political genius of a complete man.

Thanks to both artists for this lovely live portrait.

Eternally Fidel - Yuliat Danay Acosta

The English writer Raymond Drake said: "Myth is not imagination and not even a vague fiction of the past, but an oral tradition, memories deeply fixed in the collective consciousness". If we establish analogous links, it’s possible to find similarities between the classical Greek myths and those of other populations, between the ancient and the contemporary people, between the invisible and the visible, between the heroes of yesterday and today's men. This is the relationship that the painter Franco Azzinari wants to establish in the exhibition entitled "El Rostro de la Historia. - The Face of History". Twenty canvases are meant to capture the image of one of the most important men of all time: Fidel Castro. Born in a land rich of mythology, Azzinari saw in Fidel a figure in which the myths converge: "Fidel is a guerrilla. I was born in the same place where the great Greek guerrillas were born. I represent Fidel as a Greek god. Had he been born a thousand years ago it would have been certainly a god, because myths are created by deeds, and thanks to his works, Fidel will be eternal".

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The key to eternity of the American Commander who dreamed José Martí lies in the eyes of both creators, who were able to capture the invisible, what is beyond a face, what reveals the mystery of a life for which the action had more value than words and the usefulness of virtue was his greatest sign. Franco Azzinari, Italian, Alex Castro, Cuban, have succeeded in harmonious symbiosis, with lens and brush, with brush and lens, in collocating Fidel in its authentic greatness, that of a work of dedication to the human species. Thanks to him the truth, as José Martí said, "continues its march unharmed on earth." In these postmodern times in which "major charismatic figures disappear and an infinite number of small idols appear till something new and more attractive rises, and in which individuals just want to live in the present" (while future and past values decline), it is not easy for a man to be able to remember, and Azzinari says that Fidel, because of its universality, will be remembered forever. The versatility that characterizes the personality of Fidel Castro has attracted the attention of the artist. Framed in the same instant that he met him in 2000, Azzinari uses charcoal to mold the image, the mind and the soul of the leader of the Cuban Revolution.

No artist would have been able to capture the greatness of Fidel Castro. Franco Azzinari is aware of it: "I'm not capable of showing his reality," he acknowledges, and so he tries to interpret it. He sees him as a living sculpture that constantly shows expressions, urging others to think, prompting an inevitable reflection in these turbulent times. He sees him as a Zeus, for the paralyzing power that its gaze transmits, which can only be compared to the strong rays of the sun. He sees him as a Poseidon, god of the sea, protector of many cities, or as Leonardo Da Vinci’s character; but at the same time also as a politician, a journalist, a lawyer, a writer and an intellectual as he is. Despite these artistic licenses, for Azzinari, Fidel is always Fidel: "I spoke with Castro about the Revolution and, as he spoke, he gesticulated with his hands. I was very impressed. It was the first time I've seen a man so important gesturing with his hands in that way. When he touches his face, he becomes more expressive. Fidel’s hand is very interesting, it has the same expressive strength of his face. Fidel has an internal force, radiates energy from its gestures, it is an Hellenistic profile with philosophical expression.

" Gestures are important elements in this work. The artist wants to emphasize elements such as hands, eyes and other parts of the face. Expressions, as idio-aesthetic aspects, the anatomical pomposity of every detail of his appearance: to create each part in order to highlight the message. "It's his story, and this story is reflected on his face and in himself," the painter says while recognizing, in the same way in which the Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamin did, the impressiveness of his physique.
The theme of the great myths appears very often in the works of Azzinari. A man who has dealt with the different languages of visual creation, looking for people who have somehow become a legend: from the epic Ernest Hemingway to the introspective search of One Hundred Years of Solitude, through García Márquez. They are works that arise and rise again as a creative need, which express an innate curiosity for growth, around characters or stories that touch mythology. Myth and legend persist, through various works, as a window that overlooks the symbolic, a kind of bridge that communicates between reason and intuition. Myths explain, justify or develop the origin, the reason for and the cause of some aspects of social and individual life. "Symbols and legends, heroes and gods represent the universe and the winding border in which the sacred and the profane mix, releasing the mysterious power of the imagination that one continues to dream".

Twenty paintings with high-contrast color recall one of the most important men in the second half of the twentieth century. Two colors with one symbolism. White, the color of absolute goodness, peace, perfection and honor, which refers to an idea of purity and modesty, looking for unity. Moreover, it is the color of the divinities and embodies also the beginning, the birth and the resurrection. On the other hand, black represents authority, strength, intransigence. It’s associated with prestige and seriousness. All of these resources, supported by thick lines in the spontaneous stroke, adhere to a rhetorical antithesis in the plastic creation. "A thoughtful Fidel, a Fidel who observes and thinks. A Fidel who observers like a writer, with the expression of an intellectual and who leaves a message inside, that makes some provocations and leads to assume attitudes towards life. After observing Fidel, inevitably a change occurs, and this is indeed what I want to achieve with this exhibition: the image of the Chief Commander will have an impact on the life of the viewers". Someone says that in this planet rumble echoes of mythological archetypes, which go beyond space and time, different looks that awaken ancient stories, the validity of which still survives today, transformed and enriched, challenging even the interchange between distant and remote cultures. Today, the majestic figure of Fidel Castro stands as a powerful myth, his mark perpetuates, and so also his image will remain, for eternity, perhaps, as the most important face of history.

"El Rostro de la Historia". Portraits of Leader Maximo Fidel Castro.

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Pictures of the exhibition "El Rostro de la Historia" - Casa del Alba Cultural, Havana, Cuba.

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Photos by Massimiliano Marino.