August 13, 1999

Peruvian Surrealist Painter Gerardo Chavez at Museum of Latin American Art

Long Beach - The Museum of Latin American Art is bring-ing a major retrospective of the extraordinary Peruvian artist Gerardo Chávez to Southern California. Gerardo Chávez: Rhythms of the Fantastic presents forty-five of Chávez' paintings from the 1960s to the present. There are Surreal images from the `60s and `70s; atmospheric Boschian beasts or monsters from the `80s; and fantastic dreamlike carousel horses of the `90s.

Chávez' fascination with Surrealism is reflected in his paintings from the 1960's and 1970's. Inspired by hallucinatory dreams and by the eerie, bizarre, other-worldly imagery in the horror stories of the American writer H.P. Lovecraft, Chávez created Daliesque creatures - grotesque, drippy, gooey, obviously sexed and lasci-viously involved.

Chávez' style and compositions change radically in the Mid-1980s. His paintings become dark and monochromatic without any indication of setting or atmosphere. Peculiar, flattened, starkly white naked figures float against dead black or gray backgrounds, sometimes intermixed with strange beasts or monsters. The forms are boschian in effect, but the lyricism of their arrangement and the addition of brighter colors as the series progresses, yields odd, yet somehow appealing com-positions.

Since the early 1990's, Chávez has again transformed his art. His main vehicle now is the carousel horse, painted in brilliant hues, but burdened with disturbing children and surrounded by repellent beasts. These paintings, charming yet disconcerting, are clearly another foray by Chávez into the realm of the fantastic.

Another painting from the late `90s is The Procession of the Potato. This monumental work, forty feet long, celebrates the importance of the potato in Peru and is painted in a style reminiscent of religious processions.

Chávez (b. 1937) attended the School of Fine Art in Lima, Peru from 1954 -1960 where he was particularly drawn to the work of the Old Masters - Raphael, Rembrandt, Velásquez, and Goya, among others. Even more influential were the reproductions Chávez studied of Bosch's Garden of Earthly delights and Bruegel's Triumph of Death. In 1960 Chávez left for Europe. He spent two years in Italy, where he met the great Chilean Surrealist, Roberto Matta (b.1911). At Matta's urging, he went on to Paris where he met many other important writers and artists, most notably the Cuban Surrealist painter, Wifredo Lam (1902-1982).

The Museum of Latin American Art is located at 628 Alamitos Ave, Long Beach, Ca. 90802

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