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Elizabeth P. Benson

Pre-Columbian Maya site in Retalhuleu, in the Highland Maya region, near the Pacific coast of Guatemala. It is best known for its monumental stone sculptures, some of which were recorded in the 19th century. The site lies partly on the Finca San Isidro Piedra Parada, and it was known by this name when Eric Thompson published a description of some of the sculpture in 1943. ‘Abaj Takalik’ (‘standing stone’) is a translation of ‘Piedra Parada’ into Quiché Maya. It was occupied during the Pre-Classic (c. 2000 bcc. ad 250) and Classic (c. ad 250–c. 900) periods. The site lies on a fertile slope between the mountains and the sea; there are remains of steep, manmade earthen terraces on which its structures were built. The earth removed to create the terraces may have been used to construct the various mounds at Abaj Takalik, a number of which were faced with stone cobbles. Adobe bricks were also used, and local volcanic material provided flooring. The site was covered in ...

Article

Giulio V. Blanc

(b San Antonio de los Baños, nr Güines, 1889; d Havana, 1965).

Cuban painter and caricaturist. He graduated from the Academia de S Alejandro in Havana in 1920 and lived in Paris from 1927 to 1929. There he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and abandoned academicism, developing a modernist ‘Cuban’ style, in which folkloric scenes of peasant life were depicted in a colourful, energetic, pseudo-naive manner reminiscent of Jules Pascin and Amedeo Modigliani. An outstanding work of this period is Triumph of the Rumba (c. 1928; Havana, Mus. N. B.A.). After a trip to Italy in the early 1930s, Abela began to paint canvases such as Guajiros (‘Peasants’; 1938; Havana, Mus. N. B.A.), in which the Classical sobriety and order is the result of his contact with Italian medieval and Renaissance art. His style underwent a radical change in the early 1950s, and from this time until his death he painted small works that recall in their use of fantasy the drawings of children as well as the works of Marc Chagall....

Article

David Boxer

(b St Andrew, May 14, 1911; d Kingston, April 10, 2005).

Jamaican painter. He began his career as a cartoonist for various local periodicals. In 1937 Augustus John, then working in Jamaica, encouraged him to begin painting. Unlike the majority of his contemporaries, he eschewed the ‘official’ classes of the Institute of Jamaica and virtually taught himself to paint through self-study courses and manuals and by copying masterpieces from art books. His cartoonist’s wit and a sardonic humour became the most important ingredients in work that drew on numerous stylistic sources, from Renaissance painting to Cubism. He was a devout Christian, and produced a host of religious works of an undeniable sincerity, although he transformed many traditional Christian themes into witty contemporary parables. His Last Supper (1955; Kingston, N.G.) is the best known of these. Some of his finest work consists of ironic transformations of the great mythological themes of the past and intensely personal fantasies based on contemporary events. He was also one of the few painters to treat successfully historical Jamaican subjects, for example in paintings of the imagined daily lives of the extinct Arawaks, the landing of Columbus, and a series depicting the riotous living of 17th-century buccaneers in Port Royal. His ...

Article

Roberto Pontual

(b Araraquara, 1903; d Asunción, Paraguay, 1992).

Brazilian printmaker and teacher. He worked initially as a printmaker and painter until 1933 when, influenced by Lasar Segall’s expressionism, he abandoned painting for wood-engraving, which he had first practised in São Paulo c. 1926. He initially treated social themes such as the São Paulo working class. Between 1935 and 1938 he produced a series of wood-engravings, Spain, based on the Spanish Civil War, for example War (1937; U. São Paulo, Inst. Estud. Bras.). In 1950 he won a trip abroad from the Salão Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro, and visited Italy, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands. On his return he made the series of wood-engravings, Rio, with scenes and landscapes characterized by a frank lyricism. He was named best national engraver in the first São Paulo Bienal in 1951. His constant activity as a teacher influenced many younger engravers. In 1957 he founded the Julian de la Herreria engraving workshop in Asunción, Paraguay, and in ...

Article

María Antonia González-Arnal

(b Turmero, nr Maracay, Aug 22, 1919; d Caracas, Feb 20, 1993).

Venezuelan painter and sculptor. From 1943 to 1947 he studied drawing and painting in the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Aplicadas, Caracas. He was a founder-member of the Taller Libre de Arte, taking part in its activities from 1949 to 1952. His paintings, always within a figurative framework, are marked by a pursuit of the magical and of indigenous roots. In his early work he was interested in the themes of roosters and flowers, using the surrounding environment as a source of inspiration. He expressed human, animal and vegetable existence in strong, warm colours (e.g. The Rooster, 1951; Caracas, Gal. A. N.). In 1952 Abreu moved to Europe, visiting Spain and Italy and living in Paris until 1962, when he returned to Venezuela. In Europe his contact with the Musée de l’Homme in Paris and with Surrealism produced a profound transformation in his work. He created his first Magical Objects...

Article

Jorge Luján-Muñoz

(b Guatemala, Jan 7, 1933).

Guatemalan painter and printmaker. From 1954 to 1957 he studied at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas in Guatemala City while researching folk art for the Dirección de Bellas Artes, but he was virtually self-taught and began as a draughtsman and painter of bullfighting scenes. In 1958 he travelled to New York on a Guatemalan government grant, prolonging his stay there with further grants, studying at the Arts Students League and Graphic Art Center, and finally settling there permanently. He was influential in Guatemala until c. 1960, but because of his long residence abroad his work did not fit easily in the context of Central American art. Before leaving Guatemala he had painted landscapes and nudes in a naturalistic style, but he soon adopted a more modern idiom partly inspired by aboriginal Guatemalan subjects. After moving to New York, and especially from 1958 to 1961, his art underwent a profound transformation as he sought to bring together elements of abstract art and Surrealism and experimented with textures, for example in cross-hatched pen-and-ink drawings such as ...

Article

Julieta Ortiz Gaitán

(b Mexico City, Sept 24, 1931).

Mexican painter. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Pintura y Escultura ‘La Esmeralda’ under Enrique Assad Lara and Carlos Orozco Romero. His work reflects a concern for the negative effects of industrialization and modernization on cities and displays a nostalgia for more humane urban conditions. His large-scale paintings, for example the Boots of the Gran Solar (oil on canvas, 1.60×1.80 m, 1982; artist’s col.), convey a sense of urgency through the use of light and colour, with broad lines and chromatic tones creating dynamic forms that show the influence of Abstract Expressionism.

Siete pintores contemporáneos: Gilberto Aceves Navarro, Luis López Loza, Rodolfo Nieto, Brian Nissen, Tomás Parra, Vlady, Roger von Gunten (exh. cat., Mexico City, Pal. B.A., 1977)R. Tibol: Aceves Navarro, Durero y las variaciones (Mexico City, 1978)M. Idalia: ‘Más libertad y menos barroquismo en la nueva pintura de Aceves Navarro’ [Greater freedom and less extravagance in the new painting of Aceves Navarro], ...

Article

Ludovico C. Koppmann

[Konstantinovsky, Wladimir ]

(b Odessa, Russia, June 23, 1900; d Buenos Aires, July 11, 1967).

Argentine architect.. He studied architecture at the Istituto di Belle Arti in Rome, graduating in 1919. From 1922 he worked in Germany, gaining experience in building engineering and urban design, before moving to Argentina in 1928. He worked in Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Venezuela, Guatemala and, from 1954 to 1957, in the USA, where he taught (1956) at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. On his return to Argentina he was appointed Professor of Architectural Composition (1957–66) at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Acosta was an early exponent of an approach to architecture through environmental design and engineering, which he promoted through his book Vivienda y clima (1937) and his ‘Helios’ buildings. These were based upon correct orientation, cross-ventilation, and the control of solar radiation by means of brises-soleil, with minimal mechanical intervention. Like the architects of the Modern Movement in Europe, he saw architecture as a social phenomenon and became dedicated to the provision of mass housing for rapidly growing urban populations. His early work included individual houses in Buenos Aires, for example the Casa Stern, Ramos Mejía (...

Article

Roberto Pontual

(b Vercelli, Italy, 1843; d Rio de Janeiro, 1910).

Brazilian caricaturist and painter. He came to Brazil in 1859, having already acquired some knowledge of painting in Paris. He settled initially in São Paulo, where he at once started to publish caricatures attacking black slavery. There, in 1864, he was one of the founders of the comic newspaper O Diabo Coxo. His abolitionist spirit continued after he moved to Rio de Janeiro, through his frequent collaboration in periodicals such as A Vida Fluminense, O Mosquito, Don Quixote and O Malho. In the Revista Ilustrada he began to publish in 1884 the first long-running strip cartoon in Brazil, the adventures of Zé Caipora, a sertão (hinterland) character, depicting a lesser-known side of Brazil. As a painter he specialized in landscapes but also produced portraits with the same fervour that fired his enjoyable and impassioned satirical drawings, for example Portrait of the Writer Joaquin Augusto Ribeiro de Sousa (c. 1890...

Article

Colin McEwan

[anc. Salangome]

Pre-Columbian site in Manabí Province, Ecuador, 8 km inland in the Buenavista River Valley. It was a principal town, controlled by a lord, of the powerful indigenous polity of Salangome, recorded in 1528 by the navigator of the Spanish explorer and conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Human occupation at Agua Blanca spanned at least 5000 years and included components of all the principal ceramic-using cultures identified along Ecuador’s coasts. The ceramic sequence began with Valdivia wares in the early 3rd millennium bc, and continued uninterrupted during the Manteño culture (c. ad 800–c. 1500) encountered by the Europeans in the 16th century.

The visible archaeological remains at Agua Blanca are of Manteño date. They comprise the wall foundations of several hundred domestic structures, storehouses, temples, and other public buildings, which together make the site the largest and best-preserved of all surviving Manteño towns. The orientations of some buildings were clearly governed by astronomical considerations. The long axis of the principal temple, for example, is directed towards the point of sunrise on the December solstice, and this alignment determined the east–west axis of many buildings at the site. A secondary or derived axis, at right angles to the first, determined the layout of other structures. In still other areas, buildings were arranged radially around a central mound, a practice resembling the principles of spatial organization expressed in the earlier dated ...