Being Ecuadorean, Oswaldo Guayasamin (1919 – 1999) is someone I’m especially proud of. Along with other greats like Eduardo Kingman, Guayasamin didn’t just paint beautifully, he made powerful statements about racism, poverty, and crimes against humanity. Being a Quechua indio himself, he understood social injustice all too well. Some of his works, like the murals he was commissioned to paint for the Ecuadorean Congress in the late '80s, showed his communist leanings—in one of the murals, he depicts a skeletal figure wearing a Nazi helmet with the lettering CIA, which of course caused the U.S. to freak out. But Guayasamin, staying true to his political ideals, didn’t change a single brush stroke. Other works, like “Los Ninos Muertos,” inspired by a four-day civil war during which one of his childhood friends was killed, were straight up tormenting. But sometimes, as in “Mother and Child,” the painting that hangs in my home back in Guayaquil, he just made you feel more human.
As part of a national traveling exhibition, the Museum of Modern Latin American Art in Long Beach, CA is currently showing some of the important works Guayasamin created during his 60-year career, including “Los Ninos Muertos.” In the words of curator, Joseph Mella, “we see in this work a tragedy of the most profound kind—an almost Goya-esque nightmare that refuses to loose its grip on the viewer. It conveys a sense of deep pain, of anguish, and of all parent’s worst and most sustaining fears—that of the murder of their child.”
Oswaldo Guayasamin: Of Rage and Redemption will be on display at the MOLAA until August 16, 2009. Note that MOLAA is the closing venue for the two-year long tour.