Benjamín Cañas, ‘The Dancers & The Drinkers’, 1978, Ford Fine Art

Benjamín Cañas (1933 – 1987)

Benajamín Cañas is a giant of Salvadoran painting. Like Gabriel García Marquez, Cañas worked in the realm of Magical Realism. He pulled his characters from mythology, religion, literature and a vast imagination. His work has a sense of timelessness. As if the past, the present and the future inhabit a single space. In his surreal and dreamlike paintings, we watch the human story play out. Creation, civilization, destruction, evolution and rebirth. Cañas was inspired by the work of Milan Kundera and Franz Kafka. He shows us the endless echoes of an infinite universe.

For Cañas, tradition had to be learned before it could be broken. He worked on his technique at the Fine Arts School in San Salvador. He studied Renaissance and Greek sculpture. He worked with ceramics and stained glass. He also studied architecture at the National University. He won an award for his design of the Watergate shopping center. But real structures could not withstand the geometry of his imagination. They could not give him the freedom he wanted.

Cañas played with size, form, space and color. His female figures are distorted and erotic. Dramatic colors highlight impossible spaces. More natural colors are used for figures from the Pre-Columbian past.

Though he spent much of his life in the U.S., Cañas is widely known. In 1977, he represented El Salvador at the Bienal Internacional in Sao Paulo. Later in life, Cañas moved away from abstract painting. He wanted to create more socially conscious art. Architect, painter, and sculptor, Cañas was at the front of the Latin American Avant-garde. He died in Arlington, VA at the age of 54.

About Benjamín Cañas