Fernando de Szyszlo (Peruvian b. 1925)
Fernando de Szyszlo (Peruvian b. 1925)

Paclla Pampa (Campo Desolado)

Fernando de Szyszlo (Peruvian b. 1925)
Paclla Pampa (Campo Desolado)
signed 'Szyszlo' (lower right) dated, inscribed and titled 'PACLLA PAMPA, Villa/69' (on the reverse)
oil on burlap
76 5/8 x 113 1/8 in. (194.6 x 287.3 cm.)
Painted in 1969.
Acquired from the artist (1971).
Nicolás Quintana Gómez collection, San Juan, Puerto Rico (1974).
Crédito e Inversiones de San Miguel, San Juan, Puerto Rico (1980).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 26 November 1985, lot 57 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, Universidad de Puerto Rico, Museo de Antropología, Historia y Artes, Fernando de Szyszlo, 1971.
New York, Center for Inter-American Relations, A Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings by Peruvian Artist Fernando de Szyszlo, 1972-1973, no. 16. This exhibition also traveled to Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno.

Lot Essay

"To create a painting that is original, you have to bring it up from deep inside of you," Szyszlo once explained. "It has to deal with your circumstance, your tradition, your heritage."(1) Szyszlo's telluric abstractions, grounded in deep reverence for the ancestral traditions of his native Peru, spectacularly evoke the drama of the vast Andean landscape that has long been the subject of his painting. His cultural identification with the pre-Columbian universe has roots above all in the pathos of the indigenous landscape, indelibly inscribed with the experience of the Andean nation at the time of Spanish conquest. Indeed, the rich imagery of Szyszlo's paintings of the 1960s has an important and acknowledged source in the extraordinary sixteenth-century Quechua elegy Apu Inca Atahuallpaman, which hauntingly mourns the death of the last Inca emperor. "What exalted Szyszlo above all," the poet Emilio Adolfo Westphalen has suggested, "was not so much the reference to that event as the attitude of the poet before the enigma of death and the bitter loneliness of those condemned to a 'wandering life.'"(2)

Like other paintings in the Puka Wamani (Red God) series of 1967-69, to which it belongs, Paclla Pampa is marked by a poetics of tragedy, here explicitly sited in the "desolate country" to which its title alludes. Szyszlo began to use Quechua titles in the 1960s to distance his paintings from more conventionally Western associations, and the title of the present work is a compound word that combines paclla (rural, country) and pampa (plain). Szyszlo's re-imagings of the Andean landscape have drawn suggestively from these literary and linguistic sources, integrating their connotative meanings within a new, modern iconography evolved from pre-Hispanic visual forms. As Dore Ashton has noted, "The circles, dots, and intricate patterns he studied both in painted and woven textiles, and the remarkable color, particularly sumptuous scarlets, in feathered textiles, would be translated in his imagination into the rudiments of a pictorial vocabulary where what these ancient Indians communicated could be aligned with the language of modern art."(3)

The ominous black and red color scheme of Paclla Pampa imparts a strange, numinous beauty to the landscape, metaphorically weaving the colors of blood and death into a personal elegy to the ancient Andean past. The sonorous color moves from the feathery strokes and atmospheric chiaroscuro of the foreground to the deeply saturated scarlet that frames a shadowy void in the distance, perhaps an evocation of the black sun that also rises in Inkarri (1968), a work from the same series now at the Blanton Museum of Art. "The stones in Szyszlo's paintings of the 1960s are often flanked by the fiery tones that bespeak both the heat of the sun and the feathered density of the Chimu feather garments," Ashton has noted, and here that hybrid imagery--silver-gray, lithic masses and brightly-patterned textile designs--eloquently describes the expanses of Szyszlo's desolate country.(4) The striking totemic form, which Szyszlo began to evolve in his work during the late 1960s, suggests finally a lone figurative presence, stone-faced and impregnable, the embodiment of both the ravages of the landscape and the long history of the Andean nation.

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park.
1) F. de Szyszlo, quoted in R. A. Parker, "Szyszlo's Abstract Nativism," Américas 37, no. 6 (November-December 1985), 42.
2) E. A. Westphalen, quoted in D. Ashton, "The Black Rainbow--The Work of Fernando de Szyszlo," Fernando de Szyszlo, Barcelona, Ediciones Polígrafa, 2003, 61.
3) Ashton, "The Black Rainbow," 31.
4) Ibid., 71.

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