Curator & Art

The guardian of nature: dreams, memory, identity and ecology in Alfredo Arreguín

If there is a museum at Madrid which is unfairly forgotten by its population that is, doubtlessly, the Museo de América. Located next to the infamous Faro de Moncloa, it opened in 1944 as part of Francoist efforts to recover guardianship over “Spanish American” nations and, therefore, the so missed empire. After sixty years of difficulties and cuts, the institution is still alive with admirable collections and a museographic discourse which make an essential educational work in the Spanish museums context: studying and spreading native to America cultures, colonizing processes and dilemmas miscegenation –metaphorically and literally- has generated.

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Alfredo Arreguín, The Jaguar Knight, 2001.

 A walk around Museo de América’s exhibition rooms sets out a series of questions which, in the postmodern context we live in, invite to reflect on colonization, origins, influences and identity. Difficulties that, spread out to the artistic sphere, gain meaningful relevance. That’s why it couldn’t be more accurate the temporal exhibit which, from 17th October to 14th December, has been organized around Alfredo Arreguín, a painter who summarize all of these issues in his biography and work.

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Alfredo Arreguín, Family Portrait, 1992.

Born in Michoacán, a Mexico’s state where he spent his entire childhood, the artist confesses that memories from that time are a decisive influence to him, mainly because of the forests and the craftwork. Arreguín possesses and shows a deep love for Nature which explodes in a thousand colors on his canvases. It is this ecological consciousness what brings him to denounce, using his brushes, the unstoppable men’s advance which devastates America’s rain forests. The geometric motifs from craftsmen, tiles and colonial buildings are the basis of what, afterwards, would be called by Americans pattern painting.

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Alfredo Arreguín, Mandala, 1984.

Till this point, the problem seems to be quite simple: this is an artist whose work reflects his Latin American identity. Let’s not hurry. Investigating into his biography we can find visits to Japan during Arreguín’s military service at Korea between 1959 and 1960 and, since 1956, he resides in Northwest United States’ Pacific. His fascination over other cultures and his direct and indirect contact with them is interwoven in a oneiric way in his work, where there are references to icons as Hokusai’s Big Wave, mandala or endangered salmon next to lush tropical flora and fauna, madonas that get rid of their religious meaning in order to adopt the role of nature’s protectors and historical personalities as Frida or Zapata.

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Alfredo Arreguín, Sad Frida, 2004.

In conclusion, this is a painter who has developed a collection of works through the blending of influences and identities, an implicit characteristic of the Latin American being we can find in the same museum which temporarily accommodates Alfredo Arreguín’s art. Mexican, Asian or Pacific Native American; the labeling issue doesn’t matter when we look at these impressive canvases which have been made from the artist’s honesty to express himself and the concerns of all the cultures he has known.

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Alfredo Arreguín, Meditation, 2014.

Diego Fraile.



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