Alejandro Xul Solar (1887-1963)
Alejandro Xul Solar (1887-1963)
Alejandro Xul Solar (1887-1963)
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Alejandro Xul Solar (1887-1963)

Patria B

Alejandro Xul Solar (1887-1963)
Patria B
signed and dated 'X 1925' (lower right)
watercolor, crayon and graphite on paper
13 1/4 x 10 1/2 in. (34 x 27 cm.)
Executed in 1925.
Rachel Adler Gallery, New York.
Private collection, Mexico.
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 24 November 1992, lot 47.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Xul Solar, Catálogo Razonado: obra completa/Alejandro Xul Solar…(et al), 1ª edición, Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires: Fundación Pan Klub, 2016, p. 282, no. 668 (illustrated).
New York, Rachel Adler Gallery, Alejandro Xul Solar, May-June 1991, no. 18.

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Lot Essay

“I’m extremely satisfied as I see how I, all on my own, without any external inspiration of any kind, have worked along the lines of what will be the dominant trend of higher art in the future,” Solar wrote to his father in 1912. He had just arrived in Europe, where he would spend the next twelve years traveling between his mother’s family home in Zoagli, near Genoa, and the major artistic capitals of France, Germany, and Italy. Self-described as “a painter, a utopian by profession,” Solar embarked on a spiritual journey that ranged across the occult sciences—the Kabbalah and the I Ching, astrology and tarot—in search of cosmic meaning and revelation (quoted in Xul Solar: visiones y revelaciones, exh. cat., MALBA, Buenos Aires, 2005, p. 200, 245). He gravitated toward the mysticism and primitive abstraction of Der Blaue Reiter, the Munich-based artist group led by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, and made contact with the magical fraternity Astrum Argentum, founded by Aleister Crowley, and with London’s Theosophical Society. “An esoteric and an occultist,” Solar charted a sui generis path between symbolism and expressionism during his European sojourn, curator Patricia M. Artundo explains. “What’s more, his trip to Germany between 1921 and 1923 with Munich as the first stop, coincided with the establishment of Schwabing—known as the suburb of the new world—almost as a place of pilgrimage,” she continues. “This place was not only the point of encounter for theosophers, mystics, gnostics, taoists, buddhists, neo-buddhists but also for nihilists, unionists, bolsheviks and pacifists. Moreover, Xul’s move to Stuttgart sealed the decision to get nearer the founder of anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner” (ibid., pp. 191-92).

Accompanying Solar during his travels in Germany and intermittently elsewhere was his great friend and compatriot Emilio Pettoruti, who shared his expansive modernist vision and with whom he returned to Argentina in the summer of 1924. In the wake of the First World War, Solar’s interest in the occult took on increasingly social and regional dimensions, keyed to the spiritual unification of Latin America—the ultimate utopia—through his invention of New World languages (Neocriollo and, later, Pan-Lengua) and iconography. “We are and we feel new people, old and foreign paths don’t lead towards our new goal,” he stated in a text dedicated to Pettoruti in 1923. “We can clearly see the urge to break the invisible chains (they are the strongest) that in so many fields reduce us to a COLONY, the great LATIN AMERICA with 90 million inhabitants. . . . To this tired world, let’s contribute a new meaning, a more varied life and a higher mission for our race which is in the ascendant. . . . Because we are an aesthetic race, with art—its mother, POETRY—we will start to say a new thing that is ours and ours alone” (quoted in ibid., p. 194).

Solar’s Pan-Americanism is conjured in a number of paintings from the 1920s, including Patria B, that posit passaging between the New and Old Worlds. He adapted this iconography in the watercolor Dragon (1927) and for a cover of Proa, the literary magazine founded by his friend Jorge Luis Borges and devoted to the advancement of the Argentine avant-garde. Implicit in the modernist and anticolonial vision they shared was a belief in the ascendance of the Americas as a cultural and artistic center, rooted in its indigenous heritage and, by virtue of its criollo hybridity, incipiently universal. “Our (patriotism?) is to find the highest possible ideal of humanity, put it into practice and spread it around the world,” Solar explained (quoted in M. Gradowczyk, Alejandro Xul Solar, Buenos Aires, 1994, p. 120). Patria B combines two themes that emerged in Solar’s work during this period: the cultural and cosmic-patriotic awakening of the mid- to late 1920s and the stepwise spiritual ascent, seen in works like Místicos (1924), that anticipated his work in the decades that followed. In Patria B, a narrow walkway angles toward a set of stairs and a strange portal marked by the letter “B” that serves as a kind of threshold, separating the perspectival space of the foreground from the ascending blocks of bodies and colors that float in the space above. Sun and moon glow at the top of the image above two small renderings of the Argentine flag, symbols that situate Solar and Patria B within both national and universal—New World—mythologies.

Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

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