Friday, January 4, 2013

Artist Gonzalo Ariza: Linking Colombia and Japan

Gonzalo Ariza in his studio. 
Bogotá's Museum of Modern Art has an exhibition celebrating the centennial of the birth of Colombian Gonzalo Ariza (1912-1995), whose work included both painting and photography, who linked Colombia and Japan and who played a role in Colombia's political and artistic dramas.

Ariza was born in Bogotá, in a house located beside what are now the gardens of the Palacio de Nariño. His father was a well-known photographer.

Monserrate and Guadalupe. 
From early on, Ariza practiced painting and put into practice his interest in human rights. In the 1930s he illustrated a book of testimonials of the Venezuelan torture victims of Venezuelan dictator Juan Vicente Gomez. Soon after, he won a Colombian government scholarship to study art in Japan, a nation which would mark his artistic life's work. Afterwards, he lived for a while in Paris.

Bogotá, under a cloudy sky. 
With World War II imminent, Ariza returned to Colombia where he soon became widely known. Perhaps too-widely known, because in 1953 dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla had Ariza arrested and tortured for possible connections with an alleged conspiracy to assassinate Rojas Pinilla. Powerful friends got Ariza released and nominated to be Colombia's cultural attache in Japan. He returned to Colombia with Rojas Pinilla's downfall in 1957.

Not long after, Ariza got involved in another kind of battle. This time it was Marta Traba, a fellow Colombian artist, who criticized Ariza for being two 'nationalistic.' The fued continued for years, with Traba supposedly once even burning one of Ariza's works in front of her art students.

'Clouds over Mesitas del Colegio.'

Detail of a painting showing Monserrate behind a eucalyptus tree. 

A Japanese baby. 

A Japanese woman. 

A street in Japan. 
A Japanese landscape. 

Pinos en La Calera. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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