Latin American Masters is saddened to report the death of Fernando de Szyszlo. Regarded as one of the most important Latin American artists of the Twentieth Century, Szyszlo died October 9th at his home in Lima, Peru.
Latin American Masters’ exhibition, planned over a year ago, is part of the Getty’s initiative on Latin American and Latino art, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. The exhibition features Szyszlo’s mixed-media paintings on canvas, board, and paper.
Fernando de Szyszlo studied art at the Pontifical Catholic University of Perú in Lima. In 1949, he moved to Paris, where he met André Breton, and fellow Latin Americans Octavio Paz and Rufino Tamayo. In 1954, Szyszlo traveled to Italy, where he studied the glazing techniques of the Venetian masters. The following year, Szyszlo returned to Peru and continued his search for a visual language that would reflect both Pre-Hispanic and European legacies.
By the late 1950’s, Szyszlo’s paintings combined the gestural power of Abstract Expressionism with a palette inspired by Peru’s ancient textile traditions. Szyszlo titled an important series of paintings from 1959, Cajamarca, a reference to the fateful place where the last Inca King was betrayed and executed by the Spanish. Szyszlo’s title was an assertion of a historical reality, too often ignored.
Szyszlo’s paintings display a formal mastery of light and shadow and, in later works, the counterpoint of weighted mass and sinuous linearity. It is impossible to imagine Szyszlo’s paintings without Surrealism, Futurism and Abstract Expressionism. Equally important for Szyszlo are the stones of Machu Pichu, the textiles of Chancay and Paracas, and the convulsive history of the Americas. Szyszlo’s genius lies in his ability to distill vast areas of culture, European and American, into a visual language that his own.