Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lima Art Museum & José Sabogal exhibit

Yesterday afternoon I headed toward downtown, to the Lima Museum of Art (Museo de Arte de Lima, MALI).

The MALI is located at one end of the Parque de la Exposición, at the intersection of Paseo Colón and Ave. Garcilazo de la Vega (everybody still calls it Wilson, its former name), about a block down from the former US Embassy and the Casa Matusita.

The "Byzantine Pavillion".  In the background, at right, the "Moorish Pavillion".

The Parque de la Exposición was built for the 1872 Lima International Exposition, and the MALI occupies the main building, the former Palacio de la Exposición (Exposition Palace).

The former Palacio de la Exposición, today the MALI

Interior atrium of the Palacio de la Exposición
The building itself was restored in the late 1950s to house the museum, which opened its doors to the public in 1961.

Installation in the foyer of the MALI

The MALI houses examples of 3000 years worth of Peruvian and other artistic creations.  It also offers art classes and courses in art history, and has a library that is open to the public.

My purpose for going, however, was to view the current exhibit of works by Peruvian indigenist painter José Sabogal.

Part of the Sabogal exhibit

Sabogal was one of the first, if not the first, artist of note to directly and explicitly incorporate Andean and indigenous imagery and persons as central subjects in art.  

At L, "Varayoc de Chinchero" (1925); at R, "Mujer del varayoc" (1926).

Sabogal thus played a key role in Peruvian art and in Peruvian social history, at a time when the idea of Peruvian nationhood was being redefined as result of the disastrous war with Chile, immigration, and other pressures.   There was a search for an "essential Peruvianness", based less on geographical accident than on culture and history. 

That gave rise to a broad indigenista movement, which sought to bring to the fore Peru's indigenous culture.  In politics, it led to movements to promote civil rights and integration of Peru's Indian majority, and the exhaltation of Peru's Inca past.  In literature and art it led to investigation of traditional arts and legends, the exploration of native Andean themes.  (Pretty much the same thing was going in Mexico, for example, which gave birth to that country's famed muralist school of art.)

"El gamonal"

Sabogal made a study of traditional pyrography and etchings on dried gourds, an traditional craft that is practiced throughout the country, and published several articles on the subject, and was inspired by it in his own etchings and other designs.

He played a foundational role in the development of Peru's indigenistas.  For example -and this was a revelation to me- it was Sabogal who suggested the name of Amauta, the seminal political and literay magazine founded by José Carlos Mariátegui, and it was Sabogal who developed its logos and interior artwork, as well as a number of the cover designs. 

Issue of Amauta with cover by Sabogal, in my library

Sabogal influenced a generation of Peruvian painters who could be called the indigenista school. Camilo Blas (1903-1985), just to give one example.

Last year I attended the opening of a show of paintings and drawings by Camilo Blas , who was the grandfather of my friend Carla, and was a friend and disciple of Sabogal's.  Blas' work made an impression, and from the MALI showing the influence that Sabogal had on Blas's work was clear.  In fact, my initial interest in the Sabogal show was that I confused Sabogal's work with Blas' when reading an article in a magazine about the opening of the exhibit!

Portrait of José Sabogal

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