Oil paintings, ink sketches, sculptures in wood and bronze – Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980, makes public his other life in art.
Last weekend, the human rights activist opened a new exhibition bringing together his work from the 1950s to the present day.
Pérez Esquivel, an intense human rights activist who was tortured as a prisoner during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, is less well known as an architect and artist, the subject of his studies at the University of La Plata and the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artès.
But with the exception of a series of drawings from the La Boca neighborhood of the 1950s and portraits of his wife Amanda and son Ernesto, his new exhibition at the Lucy Mattos Museum in the suburb of Greater Buenos de Béccar (San Isidro ) presents works reflecting a strongly political component.
“For me there is no difference between art and life, it’s the same thing. It’s the form of saying something that you carry inside and that you want to transmit”, said Pérez Esquivel in an interview with the AFP news agency.
Drawings from the bombing of an Iraqi safe haven in 2001 and a trip to Hiroshima are on display along with the acrylic sketch titled The virgin of the cartoneros (as those who recycle waste are called in Argentina).
“This work will eventually go to cartoneros. They know it and expect it,” he stressed, adding: “Nobody taught me poverty since I was one of the poor.”
“The Art Remains”
Born in 1931 in Buenos Aires, Pérez Esquivel lost his mother at a very young age and was entrusted to the care of nuns in a boarding school and his maternal grandmother, of indigenous and Guarani origin.
“Iraq and Hiroshima were scenarios in which I took part. They didn’t tell me, I was there. Art generates memory. We pass and art remains”, affirms- it, evoking images of war.
The exhibition also includes a painting of the refugees he met on the island of Lesbos (Greece) and episodes from contemporary Argentine history.
Laura Casanovas, curator of the exhibition, explained that in the case of Pérez Esquivel, “art was never excised from the struggle”.
“Ink drawings, woodcuts, acrylic paintings, watercolors and sculptures all reveal different stylistic stages with artistic proposals as close to realism as they are to the avant-garde, especially with roots Latin Americans, but with their own formal solutions,” she added. adds.
Although Pérez Esquivel has a mural in the cathedral of Riobamba (Ecuador) another in Curitiba (Brazil) and a sculpture in homage to Gandhi in Barcelona (Spain), among other permanently installed works, this exhibition is his first for over 40 years.
“I had a lot of jobs and time flies”, he justifies not having organized an exhibition before.
At 90, and following a recent stroke, he continues to paint. Right now he is recreating The last supper in a work still in progress and in which he will include the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, as well as the 12 disciples.
With his deep religious convictions, Pérez Esquivel was very close to liberation theology and was an activist in Christian movements based on nonviolence. His paintings highlight the main figures of this section, such as Archbishops Helder Camara of Brazil and Arnulfo Romero of El Salvador.
“I went through the torture and the thefts of death but I never went into existential angst. It was my spirituality that saved me and kept me from seeing horror and death,” says this slow-voiced man who barely needs a stick to walk.
Among the paintings on display, one of his favorites is death in love with life (“Death in Love with Life”), in which a skull offers a flower to a seated woman.
“Life and death are the same thing. There is not one without the other,” he says.
by Nina Negrón, AFP
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