Friday, July 28, 2006

Argentina´s William Blake

I´ve fallen in love with a painter.

His name is Alejandro Xul Solar, and he has been described as Argentina´s William Blake. The comparison is apt. His first name is pronounced "shool" and its an anagram for the Latin for light -- lux. Solar, also concerned with light, comes from his real name, Oscar Agustin Alejandro Schulz Solari. I first heard of him last week, was amazed by some of his water colors I saw at the Malba yesterday, and today I visited the small museum in Recoleto which is located in Solar´s old house. He died in 1963 and when the museum was begun the interior of the house was gutted and a new design with numerous floors on different levels was constructed. It´s modern and clean without seeming utilitarian; the floors are black and the walls gray. Dozens of his paintings and constructions are displayed. I spent an hour and a half, savoring his art like a delicious meal.

The works are full of themes dear to my heart, religion and music, language and landscapes. I don´t yet have the right terms to describe how his images affect me, and I haven´t digested the book I bought which contains reproductions from the permanent collection and essays on his life. Many of the paintings had been loaned to an exhibit traveling to Houston and Mexico City and I´ve only seen the prints. Eventually I hope to include some representation of his works here, but at the moment I have no way to do that easily.

What I can say is that Solar was a close friend of Borges. He lived in Europe in the 20´s and hung out with Picasso and the rest. Clearly Paul Klee was a major influence at one point. But I suspect that Solar was unique even among that crowd. His images drip with references to language and I believe he invented several of his own, as well as board games. I read an article at the museum that told of his belief that speech was a joint project and that dialogue was an engagement with symbols and well as meaning. He challenged people to understand him, and those that did benefit from the exchange.

Perhaps it was the colors that attracted me first, then the whimsy of the fantastic imagery. Solar is probably considered in the same class with Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez for their imaginative transformations of reality, a reality that in Latin America has not always been easy to digest. Then I noticed the references to Christianity, the Kabbala, and to Theosophy. Apparently he, as well as Borges, were followers of Rudolf Steiner, which surprised me. I must look further into that. I was particularly struck by a portrait of a yogi that was exquisitely symbolic. And I bought a copy of a moving image that bears the title "Gestation of Christ." It will have a place of honor on my wall. The collection also included a weird piano keyboard along with some other sculptures from found objects. He apparently also wrote poetry and composed music. When he returned to Buenos Aires in the late 20´s from Europe he was a key figure in the avant garde that revolved around Borges and the journals the author wrote and edited. In later life Solar moved to a house in the country by a river and continued to produce his unique art up until the time of his death.

It´s too dark in this locutorio where the computers are located for me to search through the printed material I brought I brought with me, so this brief note will have to be enoughfor now. I will continue to write more about Solari later.

Tomorrow morning I leave for a weekend in Santiago, Chile. The arrangements have been somewhat chaotic since the manager of the tour company here has been in and out of the hospital and his second in command had a tooth removed today. The ship is taking on water and listing. We learned late that this rather expensive weekend will also necessitate a $100 fee for the Chilean visa and $20 to the airport here as a exit tax. Only six of us are going on the trip, while most of the other students from Cabrillo will visit an estancia in the country where the gauchos herd vaca. It sounds like a dude ranch to me.

May all who read this be well.

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