In 1966 José López Alvarez (Lopito) surprised many people, who until then had only seen him armed with a film camera, with his own solid exhibition showing 15 oil paintings, 2 temperas and 15 sketches in ink. Few people knew that this artist, born on 10 July 1924, had studied painting and sculpture in San Alejandro. Lopito was, even for the large majority of his friends and colleagues, actually well-known for his film work, which he began in about 1951 with the young publicists Seyler and Catasús - specializing in photoanimation - in the Kinowa studios. A few years later Lopito moved to the film section of CMQ-TV (television), where he documented the various events of the convulsive Batista era as a cameraman. He was - for example - present at the drama in the Embassy of Haiti where Salas Cañizares, (who was critically wounded and later died), and several revolutionaries, who had sought refuge there, were butchered by the bloodhounds. In addition, he also filmed several emergency meetings convened by the FEU (university student union), as well as other student demonstrations of that era, which almost always ended in brutal reprisals by the police.
José López is one of the few Cuban artists, who has remained loyal to the countryside. He is passionate about the hills. We have heard him speak ardently about these natural beauties of Cuba. In his nature we find the special qualities which show just this profound and tenacious loyalty. Even as a student at the old Academy of San Alejandro, Lopito was a keen enthusiast of the landscape, however he never allowed himself to be caught up in careless and deceptive brush strokes. Even in those years of apprenticeship, he stood up "impetuously" for pastiches and chromatic violence, which meant a rainbow-like blow against the "sugar-sweet" palette of the "Academicians". Lopito remained fanatical about painting landscapes until the beginning of the fifties. From this point a lengthy pause set in until the year 1966.
All of these efforts, far removed from the art of painting, reveal the serious and courageous will of this modest Cuban artist, who approaches everything he does with extraordinary interest. After the victory of the revolution, Lopito joined the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográfica (ICAIC) where he did productive work; he took part in the documentary film Nace un bosque, Posición I, Por primera vez and the feature films: Cumbite, La muerte de un burócrata, Un día en el solar, Tránsito, Nosotros la música and Una pelea contra los domonios. At the same time he filmed news for the ICAIC and ICRT (Instituto Cubano de Radio y Televisión).
Without neglecting these activities, Lopito took up his brushes again in order to convey to us the varied landscapes of Baracoa, Viñales, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos, Guanabacoa and Regla.
As a cameraman for ICAIC he traveled throughout the Cuban countryside yet again and the greens, reds, yellows and blues began to awaken the diversity of his interests and the dormant, but not extinguished, spirit led him back once more to painting, which for Lopito means painting landscapes. Clusters of houses, hidden corners of old towns, coffee drying plant, groves of palm trees, hills etc. picked up the old saraband on the canvas.
In addition to his numerous exhibitions at home and abroad, he has always found special occasions and locations for his works: one in the Parque Lenin (25 pictures) and the other with 35 works in the gallery of the UNEAC (Cuban Association of Artists and Writers). This is in addition to his participation in other collective exhibitions such as: Salón 70 de Bellas Artes and Primer Salón 26 de Julio. Or an exhibition with themes which, adapting what writers would say, "remained on the palette": pictures of the past - the neighborhoods and homes of the poor - remnants of what is disappearing, as well as of the changes the revolution has brought to our landscape.
The Cuban Van Gogh, as Lopito is called by many art-lovers, works with a highly personal method and well-defined guidelines in this scenic genre. It is a very powerful and refreshing landscape without human presence. Each of his works begins with a pencil sketch, which leads to ink, then to tempera and finally to the oil painting, using a palette knife and thick layers of paint.
Lopito has also tried his hand at woodcuts and, together with Carmelo, Peñalver and others, was founder of the Association of Cuban Graphic Artists; he has taken part in various salons in Cuba and Mexico.
His work is also highly valued abroad: his works were to be seen at the University of Tampa (1951), the University of Mexico (1952) and in the very successful exhibition Pintura Comprometida, in Bulgaria (1973).
Lopito´s paintings are to be found throughout the world, above all in Canada, the United States, Bulgaria and Italy. He is a leading member of the UNEAC (Association of Cuban Artists and Writers), Visual Arts section, and works in lithography in their studios.
As a cameraman for ICAIC, Lopito had the opportunity of experiencing that historical moment as the campesinos of the Sierra Maestra enjoyed a film performance for the very first time. A spectacle that many of them had not even heard of. It should be remembered that this historical event was recorded in the documentary film Por primera vez. From this very work, Lopito created one of his freshest and most vibrant paintings.
He left numerous sketches of this imposing landscape and of the school established in that region by the revolution. His picture is also entitled Por primera vez and in the center of the thick shades of green, the Cuban flag flutters as a sign of freedom, and the picture as a whole has the effect of a small hymn on the revolutionary work in the field of education. Those who were able to see his pictures in the Parque Lenin Gallery, therefore not only learned a lesson in good painting, but also a direct political appeal, full of hope.
He traveled in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, the United States and other countries, in order to - as the "Gaceta de Cuba", said in June 1974 - return to his Cuban landscape and his seductive way of depicting it.