Wednesday, November 23, 2011

#107 Alejandro Mario Yllanes

Alejandro Mario Yllanes, Self-portrait Number 1, wood engraving (1944)

Alejandro Mario Yllanes (Illanes; b. 1913; d. 1960?), a Bolivian tin miner turned engraver, painter and muralist, vanished in the late 1940s after winning—but not claiming—the Guggenheim Fellowship. It is believed that he returned to Mexico leaving much of his work behind in New York.

His self-portrait was exhibited as part of a retrospective held at the Ben Shahn Galleries at William Paterson College (Wayne, NJ) in 1992. The exhibition also travelled to the Edith C. Blum Art Institute at Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY). Yllanes’ work had only been shown once before in Mexico when Diego Rivera championed his work and wrote in the 1946 exhibition catalogue that “artists and workers of Mexico should open their arms to […] this Bolivian who endured torture, languished in prison and suffered in exile because of the revolutionary affirmations expressed in his paintings.”

Jacqueline Barnitz, author of Twentieth Century Art of Latin America, writes that Yllanes was one of the few Bolivian artists to take a militant position and that his figures, the Andean peasants, are the “central actors of their own land, in control of their lives.”

The wood engraving, measuring 24 by 18 cm, follows the sophisticated patterns and speckles typical of his prints. The nicely kempt hair, and stylish suit and tie, contrast the clothing most of the Andean subjects wear in his paintings. Yet, the dark eyes and eagle-like face, traits found in many of his figures, are reflective of the silent suffering he not only depicts but must have endured himself.

Barnitz, Jacqueline. Twentieth-century art of Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001. Print.
Museum of Modern Art. Collection database. Artefact #198.1950.
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. “Fellows.” n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2012.
Raynor, Vivien. “Art, Works by a Vanished Bolivian Painter.” New York Times (1992): n. page. Web. 5 Apr. 1992.
Weintraub, Linda. Being Discovered. The Spanish Conquest from the Amer-Indian Point of View, Alejandro Mario Yllanes. New York: Edith C. Blum Art Institute, Bard College, 1992. Print.

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