Vladimir Cora walked in the
shadows of Mexico’s great painters, nurturing a dream to cement his name among
As the young protégé of master painter Rufino
Tamayo, V. Cora is emerging as one of the premier
Mexican artists working in the United States.
Galleries throughout the nation carry his work, and an upscale Los Angeles
Restaurant is being named after Cora, whose paintings sell for up to $50,000,
nearly triple what they did ten years ago.
The breadth of Cora’s work is housed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as part of the Bernard and Edith Lewin Latin American Art Galleries, which opened on December 14, 2000. Among the 1,800 works worth $245 million and given to the museum by the Lewins in 1997 are paintings by modern Mexican masters including Rufino Tamayo, Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Riviera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. The permanent collection, considered one of the nation’s largest collections of 20th-century Mexican art, includes 500 paintings by Cora. ”The art will be exhibited in rotation to show the richness of Latin American Art,” says Ilona Katzew, associate curator of Latin American Art at LACMA. Self-taught, the native of Nayarit, Mexico, built his reputation at home as a formidable painter in his late teens. Cora knew he wanted to be a painter after seeing a print of Monet’s “Water Lillies” in his aunt’s pharmacy, where he worked when he was 13.
Cora, 49, was named after Vladimir Lenin by his father, a saddle maker and avid follower in politics. Cora met Tamayo in 1978 and remained his student from then until the mentor died in 1991. Tamayo openly praised Cora as a “pillar” of a new generation of Mexican artists. He stated in 1986 that Cora was “one of the young painters who will receive all my support to continue the work I started a long time ago.”Tamayo was dubbed el padrino, or “the godfather” to Cora. “Tamayo didn’t take a lot of pupils,” Katzew said of the renegade artist. He didn’t establish a formal art school like his contemporaries and, in fact, often worked counter to the Mexican muralists, many of whose work was politically driven. Tamayo was more interested in universal themes such as liberty and man confronted by the cosmos, Katzew said. He experimented with various techniques and materials, such as using sand and marble powder to bring luster to his paintings. Cora works in a similiar experimental fashion. His paintings are visibly marred with scratches and scribbles. He is known to plunge his hands into globs of paint and squiggle it on the canvas. He blends acrylics and oils in his paintings to create a contrast of colors and depth. Evoked in his paintings is a fierce enthusiasm. His work has more energy and is much bolder than Tamayo’s style, who painted with more subleties and had gentle, delicate touches.
Cora, who can be inspired by a conversation, friends, music, nature and especially women, has evolved a style incorporating geometric elements of Cubism. His early paintings emulate artists who influenced him, namely Tamayo and Picasso, and is exemplified by works such as the “Watermelon Mouth” series, and “La Senoritas de Tecuala,” “Musician” and “Bather” series. In Cora’s more recent work, his neo-figurative forms and vibrant palette of hazy blues, pinks and turquoise are reminiscent of the tropical beaches and lush settings of Nayarit, on the west coast of Mexico near Puerto Vallarta, where Cora was raised. “His style is abstract with some vestiges of representation of objects and human figures,” said Margarita Nieto, a Los Angeles art critic and historian who was the assessor of the Lewin collection. Common to the Mexican style of “plastic arts,“ which distorts the representation of a subject, the imagery in Cora’s paintings hints of windows, lips, hair, legs and the curves of the female figure. Like Tamayo, Cora often painted fruits to represent women – the great creators, Nieto said. ”There is an erotic sensuality to his work,” Nieto continued. ”His lines or stripes evoke the sense of Venetian blinds – which gives the idea of privacy, intimacy, unveiling and veiling, or an opening or closing of a window.”
Cora has had one-man exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and Palacio de Belles Artes (the Palace of fine Arts) in Mexico City in 1994 and 1995, respectively. He is represented in galleries in California and New York and there will be a one-man showing of his works at the Marion Meyer Contemporary Art Gallery in Laguna Beach opening with a reception for the artist on January 20, 2001. The exhibition “Figures’ (Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture) will be on display until March 5, 2001.
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