“El Ávila”

Works by Adrián Pujol, Martín Morales and Roberto De la Fuente.

 

El Ávila is a forested mountain that surrounds the city of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, named after lands owned by Juan Antonio Ávila in what is considered to be the beginning of the Andean mountain range. It also separates the city from the Caribbean Sea and has been a landmark for its inhabitants since the early settlements of the Carib tribes. Its indigenous name, Warairarepano, has different interpretations, some saying it means ”giant wave that came from the sea”, while others suggest it is a reference to a “large sierra”.  Yet El Ávila is much more than its 202,000 acres of geography: it is an icon that carries an enormous poetic and emotional charge. The people of Caracas are obsessed with its beauty. It also haunts Venezuelans in exile, and grounds them with both, identity and yearning. For the inhabitants of the city, El Ávila is a beacon that guides them, a green lung that saves the city from pollution, and diminishes the urban scale. El Ávila has been an ignite source of inspiration for all who have lived close by, a monumental backdrop for everything that the city is, while it stands out majestically watching over it as a gigantic amulet.

 

Not surprisingly, El Ávila´s noble landscape has been a recurrent theme in Venezuela’s artistic tradition. Foreign and local artists have forever researched and studied its topography, its color variations and light. During the 19th century, traveling artists like Ferdinand Bellerman, Jean Baptiste Louis, Fritz Melbye, among others, were enthusiastic painters inspired by Alexander Von Humboldt and Bonpland’s descriptions of the rich and lush natural vegetation of the region, as well as the untouched exotic nature of its landscape. Early local painters Ramón Irazábal, Martin Tovar y Tovar, Ramón Bolet Peraza, Jesús María de las Casas and Federico Brandt, were devoted to capturing its majestic presence on canvas with regularity over the years; but it was painter Manuel Cabré, who obsessively depicted El Ávila in all its colors and shapes and made it his most important motif through a lifetime devoted to observing and painting its poetic nature, that set a precedent for contemporary artists to commit their own works to it. The artists in this exhibition, Adrián Pujol (Palma de Mallorca, 1948, Venezuelan resident since 1974) Martín Morales (Canaguá, Edo Mérida, 1951) and Roberto De la Fuente (Caracas, 1965) are three of Venezuela’s contemporary painters who continue to focus on El Ávila as a significant subject.

 

Adrián Pujol, one of Venezuela’s most important contemporary painters, creates intimate and subjective views that speak about El Ávila’s presence in our daily lives, its image captured through the window, its complete or partial views, as an omnipresent element in Caracas´ daily life through direct painting. For Pujol, a painting is a reaction of the sum of many moments, so time is what leads him to pure expression. His paintings are derive from emotion and they function as an introspective scrutiny with no intermediary but the landscape in front of the artist. Two icons of Venezuela’s art history inspire Martín Morales’ work: Kinetic art and Manuel Cabré’s body of work focusing on the Ávila. Through his paintings, Morales establishes a vision of the mountain’s prole, combined with overlapping thin abstract color lines that generate a dynamic de-materialization of the landscape, much like a Chromo-saturation, emulating Carlos Cruz Diez’ important color studies.

 

Finally, Roberto De la Fuente is an artist that dedicates most of his work to this icon, and has developed a renewed, hyper realistic painting technique, free of impurities and imperfections  He prepares the wooden support with concave and convex reliefs, so the mountain appears before the viewer as faithfully as a photograph would. Hence, all hues, shadows and topography along with its shapes and secrets, become revealed in his large format, volumetric paintings.

 

To paint the timeless, grandiose and ever-present silent mountain of El Ávila implies an exercise of contemplation, as well as a patient love for capturing minimal details, hues, the passing of time, and the emotion of landscapes. As artists, Pujol, Morales and De La Fuente, per through their observant and quiet scrutiny, a face of reality that transcends the condition of contemporary art, a sensible act of abstracting the viewer from the harsh reality that Venezuela lives today, to present an obvious truth: that a subjective gaze along with the act of contemplation is, as nature itself, omnipotent.

 

Amalia Caputo

 

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