The exhibition José Gamarra – Antología, originally presented at the National Museum of Visual Arts of Uruguay (MNAV), offers an overview of almost eight decades of the career of one of the most important artists born in the neighboring nation, an unavoidable reference in the visual arts, not only in their country of origin, but beyond its borders.
Discover the Uruguayan figurative painter in his studio in Arcueil. A film directed by Olivier Le Vaillant. A production of the City of Arcueil and the municipal gallery Julio Gonzalez.
José Gamarra situates his story in the beginning; when the continent was jungle and the urban universe had not yet made an irruption. Gamarra situates his narration in the enormous and aesthetic dimension of the jungle; a figure that since the Discovery of America became in the western imaginary the identifying feature of the continent: it is the American landscape par excellence. It exalts its disturbing and mysterious majesty, and contrasts it with the modernity that appears in the form of industrial artifacts (helicopters, television) reflecting the tragic manner of the arrival of modernity to the continent.
Gamarra created signs: monochromatic, calligraphy, reliefs, textures with somber colors, of strong visual impact. The artist explains the process to materialize his creation.
"I began to handle a plane, a material support, and the signs. It could be said that I took from informalism that way of playing with matter, as a support for what I wanted to read, which were the signs. They were invented signs, but linked to the first cultures of my land. What I do is a mixture of symbolism with American painting. I use a palette with shades of black, brown and white, but before the work, the man disappears, only the virgin canvas and a need to say inexplicable things. Because to explain is contradictory; that is why these works do not have titles, only numbers. They are just paintings."
Gamarra does not go astray because he is young, nor is he transformed by it. If he knew how to master, from very early on, the secrets of technique, one can attribute to the natural boldness of age a depth that is not common. And he can venture into paths that, usually, are considered reserved for more experienced maturity.
To deal with the work of José Gamarra, much more than a prologue would be needed. His painting, because of his trajectory, the forms he went through, the historical and political issues that he makes visible, is one of the most intriguing of his time, ours. What is the coherence that underlies Gamarra's painting? That is what we must try to discover. To this end, a methodical approach has been adopted: relying almost exclusively on the works themselves, considering them apart from what has been written about them, putting oneself in the position of the explorer of an unknown region. The elements of external interpretation used are data from the ancient and contemporary history of Latin America; or references drawn from the universal history of the arts.