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The works of Oswaldo Guayasamín

15 May, 2023

We can say that Oswaldo Guayasamín is the most important artist in Ecuador and one of the most important in Latin America. During his career, he developed several emblematic series that reflect his critical vision and his commitment to justice in which he reflected social problems of the continent through his works of art:

The Age of Anger.

Napalm, 1976

In this series made in the 1970s, Guayasamín addresses the violence and suffering caused by political oppression, social injustice, human suffering and the struggle for human rights through powerful and evocative images. Guayasamín recounts some of the atrocities committed during dictatorial regimes and armed conflicts. This series is so named because it reflects the anger and powerlessness that result from institutionalized violence and dark moments, being this a denunciation of violence and a sample of the emotions that it evokes in people.

In “The Age of Wrath”, Guayasamín makes use of the expressionist and figurative style that identifies him so well, along with a somber and contrasting color palette, to convey the emotional intensity of his themes. His human figures, often distorted and with anguished gestures, reflect the suffering and anger he observed in his surroundings.

The age of tenderness (maternity)

Mother and child, 1987

This series, created between 1964 and 1965, is a counterpoint to The Age of Anger, because, contrary to the themes it usually deals with, it represents purity and tenderness; it explores love, motherhood and family relationships, using softer and warmer colors.

Through it, the Ecuadorian artist seeks to highlight the importance of tenderness as a force that can resist and transcend violence and oppression. It is a tribute to the mother figure and in turn seeks to capture the strength, tenderness and unconditional love of women through a representation of family and maternal scenes, mothers and children in intimate moments of affection and care. These representations symbolize the capacity of love and tenderness to generate a bond that transcends social and cultural barriers. The artist seeks to highlight the importance of these relationships and how they can be a source of strength and resilience. This series was dedicated mainly to his mother.

Manos

Hands of a beggar, 1970

This series of 13 paintings belong to the stage of “The Age of Wrath”. Oswaldo Guayasamín’s set of works of hands is one of his most emblematic creations. It highlights the emotions of the Age of Anger, but seeks to capture them through the hands.

Throughout his career, Guayasamín developed a special interest in the representation of hands, considering them a powerful tool for expressing emotions, telling stories and transmitting profound messages. Thus, in these works, we see hands in different positions and accompanied by gestures representative of his expressionist work, all with high symbolic and significant value.

Here, through the hands Guayasamín achieves different representations such as hard work and manual labor, reflecting the daily struggle of workers and peasants; they also symbolize strength and resistance to oppression and social injustice and on other occasions they are a gesture of unity and solidarity to show the importance of cooperation and human fraternity.

The cry or the cry

Head, face, sketch of the condemned, 1967

Created between 1962 and 1989, this series is a perfect representation of the desperation experienced by people in situations of oppression and violence.

In this series, Guayasamín uses an expressionist and figurative style, characterized by energetic brushstrokes and intense colors. The human figures portrayed in “El Grito” show distorted faces and bodies, with anguished gestures and expressions of suffering. Dramatic shapes and colors combine to convey a sense of desperation and emotional heartbreak.

Each painting in the “El Grito” series is a visual testimony to the struggle and resilience of people facing adverse conditions. It seems that we are listening to the paintings and at the same time it seems that these figures are trying to scream, but the sound of it faints and does not come out of their throats.

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