Venezuelan artist Oswaldo Vigas’ prolific modernist works, Paintings Between Latin America, Africa, and Europe, are featured in the latest exhibit at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. The exhibit is organized by his son Lorenzo.
Vigas identifies himself as Mestizo, a South American term for a person of mixed race, especially of indigenous and Spanish descent. Always interested in the pre-Colombian artifacts and petroglyphs in the region, they inspired his abstract figures.
Vigas, considered one of Latin America’s most prominent artists, was a contemporary of Picasso, Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, Alexander Calder, and Wifredo Lam. He was close to these artists while living in Paris during the 1950s and 1960s, especially Picasso, who encouraged Vigas to reflect on ancestry notions in his work. He was also fascinated by European modernism.
In an interview, he said “The Americas are a cosmos. Our continent is full of dark signs and warnings: telluric signs and magic that are deep components of our condition. At the same time that they reveal something, these symbols also compromise us in a disturbing world of effervescence. The intention of my painting is to reach them, interpret them, and translate them into new warnings. My paintings are halfway between Latin America, Africa, and Europe.”
“Spending time with my father, my first motivation was that I knew people would learn about his art because books were going to be made,” his son Lorenzo says by phone from Mexico City. “And exhibits would be curated after he was gone. I wanted to make a film so that people would know him as a human being and his motivations to make art and because he was a very particular and interesting character.”
While most artists spend a great deal of time alone in the studio, Lorenzo says his father was different.
“My father was not a loner at all. He was not the usual loner artist. He was a very social person. He needed to be surrounded by many, many people all the time. He needed it. He liked being surrounded by people when he worked and painted. A lot of friends would go visit him all the time in the studio.”
Lorenzo says he and his father were emotionally very close, even when he left home at 17 to study biology and then film. But he did not wish to follow his path as an artist.
“Not at the beginning,” Lorenzo says. “I was very much into sports. I liked to play soccer and was rejecting in a way what I had at home because my home was full of all the important artists that would visit Venezuela and would come to see him in his studio.”
Lorenzo became interested in film and made a movie about his father. The art in the exhibit comes from a foundation established after Oswaldo’s passing.
This current exhibit features several works never before exhibited in the United States. It is part of a series of tributes scheduled in multiple cities and continents to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Oswaldo Vigas’ birth.
“For South Florida audiences, at the crossroads here of the contemporary Latin American experience, this new presentation of Oswaldo Vigas’ work takes on a whole new meaning at this time in American culture,” says Irvin Lippman, Executive Director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art. We are thrilled to partner with the Oswaldo Vigas Foundation, and to usher in the opening of this powerful exhibition.”
Outside of a lifetime of painting and international travel, Lorenzo says his father struggled in his youth with poverty which led to an interest in food.
“He was very young and they didn’t have much money to eat, so when he could afford to eat better, he developed a passion for cooking and eating – he spent 15 years in Paris – and he loved to see films too,” Lorenzo says.
The exhibition is a labor of love for Lorenzo, winner of the prestigious Golden Lion Award at the Venice International Film Festival in 2015. He directed the 2016 documentary about his father’s life entitled ‘The Orchid Seller (El Vendedor de Orquídeas)’ and was deeply involved in the creation of his father’s online catalogue raisonné.
“The film about my father asks us to reflect on the passage of time, the importance of memories, and above all on the origin of the impulse to create,” says Lorenzo. “My father’s art was always woven with the primeval roots of Latin American culture, yet he is no longer viewed merely as a ‘Latin American artist’– he is now acknowledged as a modern universal artist.”
The exhibition at the Boca Eaton Museum of Art has 17 paintings and it’s the artist’s catalogue raisonne that has 3,000 paintings and publications detailing Vigas’ life. The Boca Raton Museum of Art is at 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton. Online at Bocamuseum.org
Filmmaker honors father artist Oswaldo Vigas at Boca Museum