February 04, 2000

Famed Barela Carvings Shown at Museum of Man

Acclaimed Exhibit Comes to San Diego Feb. 19

An exhibition of 40 religious, secular and abstract woodcarvings by renowned Hispanic artist Patrocinio Barela are part of a national tour that will have its only California stop at the San Diego Museum of Man from Feb. 19 to May 14, 2000.

Patrocinio Barela, "The Last Supper."

The acclaimed exhibition "BARELA: Remembering a Village Artist" —held in cooperation with the Centro Cultural de la Raza— brings to lie the illustrious carving career of Patrocinio Barela, recognized nationally as the most important mid-20th century Mexican-American artist. His unique self-taught sculpting style is representative of both the New Mexican santero and the American modernist traditions.

Barela's distinctive wood sculptures, described as modern yet reminiscent of ancient Meso-American roots, have been collected by all of New Mexico's major museums and by numerous private collections around the country.

According to the Museum of Man's director, Douglas Sharon, Ph.D., "this is a very special exhibition for the Museum because it brings together many of Barela's important works in a context that reflects his time and the community in which he lived."

In addition to the captivating collection of wood carvings, the exhibit spotlights paintings and oral histories of the sculptor.

Materials provided by family, friends, neighbors and fellow artists —assembled for exhibit goers in audio format— vividly capture the life and times of Barela from his childhood in Taos in the early 1900s to his work as an itinerant laborer during the Great Depression to his early successes supported by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Barela was just reaching artistic acclaim when he died in a studio fire in 1964.

"These first-person narratives and reflections on Barela, his work and influences shift the focus of the exhibit from traditional art history to community and cultural points of view," said Sharon.

A small selection of works by recognized artists influenced by Barela, including the late Luz Martinez and Leo Salazar of Taos, and carver Ralph Suazo of Taos Pueblo, are also part of this compelling exhibition.

Noted Taos artist Ed Sandoval's special oil-on-canvas portrait, entitled "BARELA, 1996" was created for the exhibition, which was made possible by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the M.A. Healy Family Foundation, the Dharma Foundation and New Mexico Arts.

Vicente A. Martinez, a recognized Barela scholar, is the project director for the two-year, six-museum tour, while the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, New Mexico, provides the institutional base and serves as fiscal agent for the project.

The exhibition runs through May at the San Diego Museum of Man, and from there continues to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (June 17 - Aug. 20, 2000) and the New Mexico Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico (dates to be announced).

For more information, phone the Museum at (619) 239-2001 or visit the website at www.museumofman.org.

The San Diego Museum of Man, at 1350 El Prado in Balboa Park, is an educational, non-profit corporation founded in 1915 to display the life and history of humankind.

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