Julio Larraz (Cuban b. 1944)
Julio Larraz (Cuban b. 1944)

A Day in Istanbul

Julio Larraz (Cuban b. 1944)
A Day in Istanbul
signed and dated 'Julio Larraz 85' (upper right)
oil on burlap
49 3/8 x 67 1/8 in. (125.4 x 170.5 cm.)
Painted in 1985.
Gary Nader Fine Arts Coral Gables, 23 January 2000, lot 10 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
E.J. Sullivan, Julio Larraz, New York, Hudson Hills Press, 1989, p. 74 (illustrated).
Exhibitiion catalogue, Julio Larraz, Coral Gables, Gary Nader Fine Art, 1999 (illustrated in color).
Monterrey, Museo de Monterrey, Julio Larraz, January- March 1987.
Coral Gables, Gary Nader Fine Art, Julio Larraz, 5 November 1999.

Lot Essay

A studied realist and sophisticated connoisseur of his craft, Larraz brings a penetrating intelligence to his engagement with the still life tradition. Larraz has "done some of his most important work in the field of still life," Edward Sullivan has observed, and undoubtedly his still-life tableaux rank among his most impressive bodies of work. "In these pictures, objects are usually monumentalized, made physically and psychologically larger than in real life," Sullivan has further noted. "They take on an importance and grandeur that are often surprising and sometimes even disturbing," and understood as metaphors and similes they intimate new associations and states of mind.[1]

Here, on a grand scale, a gleaming violoncello perches curiously atop a wheeled cart, stretching from shell-like scroll to pointed endpin across the length of the canvas. Painted in understated warm tones, A Day in Istanbul strikes a musical note in its subtle color harmonies, highlighted by the polished luster of the wooden instrument and the satiny tea-rose pink cloth on which it rests. The title implies an association with the antique capital of the Byzantine Empire, the meeting point of the European and Asian continents and an historically celebrated, cosmopolitan city of cultural meeting and artistic exchange. The Turkish capital becomes a resonant point of orientation in Larraz's picture, poetically evoked in the muted Mediterranean colors and juxtaposed forms, yet the relationship between the objects is itself elusive and left finally unresolved.

Larraz has long privileged aesthetic relations, relative to firm narrative meaning, and the tactile surface of A Day in Istanbul exemplifies the artists pleasure in the subtle harmonies of color and form. "Texture is especially significant for me," Larraz once explained. "When I begin to paint something I feel like I have to know how to create that thing, not just re-create it with paint. I have spent many hours simply observing a variety of wood surfaces in order to portray them in a really honest way."[2] The warm textured grain of the violoncello is a testament to the artists fascination with wood surfaces: the burnished instrument beautifully reflects the gentle light cast across its curved mahogany body and ebony fingerboard. The hardness of the wood contrasts with the velvet-like softness of the cloth, which drapes to the white-and-black tiled floor. The consonance of these surfaces, distinct and yet complementary, finely evokes the material essences of the objects and their metaphoric powers of suggestion.

"There is an inevitable poetic quality to so many of these pictures, and in many an entire atmosphere of light, colors, and even sounds evoked," Sullivan has observed:
A Day in Istanbul,1984, and Habeas Corpus, 1986, depict cellos set on wheeled carts placed on tiled floors. The instruments are perfectly still and no bow is in sight, yet the viewer is given the impression that someone will soon enter the scene and begin to play. Given this indirect human presence here and elsewhere, one can easily understand many of the still lifes as implied figure compositions. In addition, one can easily imagine that the person who might suddenly enter the scene is the artist. He insinuates himself almost physically into the work. These still lifes might thus be understood, by extension, to be paradigmatic self-portraits. Larraz has created a world for himself in each picture, and if we look at these images with careful attention, we can almost feel him standing beside us.[3]
It is a testament to the power of Larraz's still lifes that we perceive these objects as living bodies, possessed with an intimately human gravitas and a monumentality that well belies their material forms.

Abby McEwen.

[1] E. J. Sullivan, Julio Larraz, New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1989, 12, 26.
[2] J. Larraz, quoted in Sullivan, Julio Larraz, 167.
[3] Sullivan, Julio Larraz, 74.

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