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Of Rage and Redemption: The Art of Oswaldo Guayasamín

A exhibition curated by Joseph Mella

April 5, 2008 – May 29, 2008

“Of Rage and Redemption: The Art of Oswaldo Guayasamín”, the first U.S. exhibit in almost sixty years of one of the most highly regarded Latin American artists of the 20th century, Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919-1999), will open at 6pm on April 4th at the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C.

Of Rage and Redemption, curated by Joseph Mella, includes over forty works from his early paintings responding to Ecuador’s four-day civil war of 1932 to what he called “La Ternura” (“The Tenderness”), his final period beginning in the mid 1980s.

Oswaldo Guayasamín (1919-1999)
Admitted to the Escuela de Bellas Artes (School of Fine Arts) of Quito, Ecuador, in 1932 at the age of 12, Guayamasín honed his exceptional talents for painting and drawing. His work of the next decade included pieces indicative of his strong bond with his mother (such as 1941’s Mother and Child #1) as well as work responding to the violence and cruelty of the world (such as 1942’s Dead Children #11).

By the early 1940s, Guayasamín had completed his formal training and began to concentrate on his studies of architecture, but soon thereafter returned his focus to painting, holding his first major exhibition in Guayaquil, Ecuador, which was followed by a seven-month tour of museums in the United States, including participation in an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York alongside such other up-and-coming and influential Latin American artists as Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros. During the late 1940s and 1950s, the influence of the time he spent in Mexico with Orozco is evident. Guayasamín’s depictions of the struggles faced by indigenous peoples often provide a message of hope. In the case of The Bull and the Condor (1957), the condor (representing Andean people) overcomes the bull (representing their conquerors). It was during this period that the artist held a landmark solo exhibition at the OAS (formerly known as the Pan-American Union) that opened in June 1955.

Guayasamín became increasingly political during his Age of Wrath period in the 1960s and 1970s. The large-scale, five-part work Meeting at the Pentagon (1970) and Napalm (1976) expand upon his earlier themes of imperialism, while The Tortured I-III (1976-77) provides a moving tribute to Victor Jara, the great Chilean activist and folk singer who was brutalized and murdered during the coup and overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973.
By the mid 1980s, Guayasamín had come full circle, returning to his earlier themes of the bond between mother and child and filling his work with an overall sense of hope for humankind.

”Of Rage and Redemption: The Art of Oswaldo Guayasamín” has been supported, in part, by a generous gift from Susan and Ruff Fant. Additional support has been provided by the Louise Bullard Wallace Foundation, Nashville, the College of Arts and Science, Vanderbilt University, the Fundación Guayasamín, the Inter-American Development Bank Cultural Center, the Embassy of Ecuador in Washington, DC, the Mission of Ecuador to the Organization of American States, American Airlines, and Microsoft.

Oswaldo Guayasamín