Marta Traba and Casimiro Eiger, two of the most eminent Latin American critics of the 1950s, coincided in affirming that the year 1959 was extremely important in Alejandro Obregón's artistic career. It is possible to confirm this historically and add that in 1959 he culminated a gradual, rigorous process enabling him to win the first prize in the Hispano-American Biennale in Madrid (1958) and receive an honorable mention in the São Paulo Biennale of 1959. Also, that very year Obregón received the first prize in the Salón Nacional held in Barranquilla; he painted a mural al fresco in the recently built Luis Angel Arango Library in Bogotá and held two individual shows in Bogotá galleries garnering him unanimous praise from the critics.
Obregón had a fiery and extroverted personality with a passion for his physical surroundings which is reflected in his paintings. Furthermore, he discovered some subjects for his work in nature. Thus, when he painted the coastal mangroves that mismanagement of the environment had destroyed, the mangroves were no longer wild and intact but rather a portrait of a slow erosionary decay.
Obregón was a painter of symbols realized in series. Through these, he sought to express the life forces of the geographic areas to which he was linked culturally and socially. Thus he painted many birds, in general quite abstract, of which the condor is the most well-known example. Obregon's condors are like symphonies of light representing the Andes mountain range. Bulls, for an individual who was born in Barcelona and spent his childhood there, likewise were a reference to the spiritual force of the Spanish nation. Obregón also painted two other symbols worthy of mentioning: the barracuda, associated with the Caribbean Sea, and the carnivorous flower, associated with the Amazon.
The series of the Torocondor evidently alludes to the complex totality comprising Latin America, a mestizo area par excellence. The relationship that Obregón creates in the canvas is balanced and harmonic. The bull--representing Spain--is seated and its attitude is tranquil. It is a gray, almost transparent bull that is blurred into the horizon. On its back, the condor--that is, modern Latin America--rests as though it were on the top of an Andean peak. It is a condor which chromatically has been portrayed as a dual being, half black and half white.
With the obsession of one who depicts nature, Obregón painted many condors. In some he omitted the head, a detail that he made explicit in one of his few attempts at sculpture. From the condor, the artist took its essence: its silhouette, the wings and the legs with powerful claws. This is what the viewer can appreciate in the Torocondor. In this canvas, the detail is viewed in the knots of vegetable leaves girding the animal's legs, just as in antiquity laurel wreaths girded heroes' foreheads. The condor, posed on the bull, raises itself haughtily, forming a manifest unity between the two subjects. Moreover, the general atmosphere of the canvas is ambiguous and the spectator witnesses a sky populated by lights and shadows that could be of the dawn, but these could also represent the evening, a metaphor for eternity.
Prof. Alvaro Medina
Universidad Nacional, Santa Fé de Bogotá
Translated by Dr. Wayne H. Finke
This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work currently being prepared by Luis Fernando Pradilla, Galería el Museo, Santa Fé de Bogotá