Raúl Villarreal was born in San Francisco de Paula, Havana, Cuba in 1964. Villarreal emigrated with his family to Madrid, Spain in 1972; two years later, the family moved to the United States, settling in Union City, New Jersey. Over the past 20 years Villarreal has exhibited his art in 18 one person exhibits and close to 300 group exhibits in the United States, Canada, Cuba, Costa Rica, Germany, Italy, Spain, and most recently in Suzhou, China. Villarreal’s book, Hemingway’s Cuban Son, based on his father René’s memoirs of his friendship with the famous American author was published by The Kent State University Press in January 2009.
Villarreal’s oeuvre is inspired by personal memories and experiences of growing up in Cuba, Spain and the United States, along with the assimilation of other cultures, appropriated images from mass media, and old family photographs. Utilizing personal iconography, through assemblages and a process of layering of these different elements, Villarreal attempts to convey a sense of multiple realities, time references, and existence. The works address issues of identity, multiculturalism and transculturalism.