(Chilean, b. 1935)
Oil on canvas
59 x 59 inches (149.9 x 149.9 cm)
Signed and dated lower left: Opazo 65
Titled, signed, and dated verso: Presagio / R. Opazo 1965 / Chile
A native of Santiago, painter-printmaker Rodolfo Opazo continued the strong Surrealist tradition in Chile that flowered under Roberto Matta during the 1930s. A scholarship from the Instituto de Cultura Hispanica enabled Opazo to travel to Europe in 1956, where he encountered Italian painting, Greek mythology, and the poetry of William Blake, sources for a pictorial symbolism he would employ in his future works. According to Opazo, artistic creation was a "mystical act through which we attempt to recapture a reality which, at some point, was lost to humanity," and he visualized this "reality" as silent, directionless spaces inhabited by ghostly figures.¹ His Surrealist paintings garnered him early recognition: in 1959 he won the Purchase Award at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and in 1962, a Pan-American Union scholarship to study printmaking at the Pratt Graphic Art Center in New York.
The three Opazo paintings in the McKaughan collection, Presagio (Premonition), Unicornio Virrey (Unicorn Viceroy), and Figura (Figure) typify his formal vocabulary, where headless, volumetric white bodies with elongated fingers are enclosed in boxes or limitless dark backgrounds. For Opazo, it was only in such nonsensical dreamscapes that man could confront the chaos of the real world. The occlusion of the figures' heads suggests that reason -- the mind -- does not operate in the unconscious realm, and the portrayal of their bodies as only partially human signifies the theme of transformation. In Presagio, for example, an upright figure, composed of outstretched arms, hips, and spindly legs, appears to be emerging from a bony encasement. Later Opazo works, which place generic human shapes in colored geometric streetscapes, recall the metaphysical paintings of the Italian Surrealist Giorgio de Chirico.
The recipient of a 1966 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 1970 International Award for Painting at the Montevideo, Uruguay Biennial, Opazo has exhibited his paintings in one-man exhibitions in Bogota, Montevideo, Panama City, Santiago, and Washington, D.C., and in major group exhibitions in Dallas, Lima, and São Paulo. His works can be seen at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in numerous Chilean museums, notably the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santiago.
¹E.J. Sullivan, ed., Latin American Art in the Twentieth Century, London, 1996, p. 310.
Overall very good condition: minor abrasions in upper left and right corners, along right edge, and in bottom right corner.
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