Carlos Colombino (1937 - 2013)


    Colombino, Paraguay's foremost artist, was largely self-taught although his initial training as an architect is often evident in his work. He experimented with a wide variety of materials and artistic modes but is best known for a technique he developed himself and which he called xilopinturas. In these he took plywood, cut away layers to reveal different grains, engraved areas of the surface and stained the wood with ink or paint. The result is a cross between an engraved block, a painting and a relief sculpture. His xilopinturas of the 1960s veered between a sort of informalist abstraction and bitterly ironic figurative caricatures of cardinals and military dignitaries. For about a decade from the late 1970s he used the technique in an extended series entitled Reflections on Dürer where the mode is closer to surrealism. The series includes several works on the theme of the polyhedron in the famous engraving Melancolia, and an extensive set of imaginative variations on Dürer's self portrait in which Colombino unwraps, dismembers, stitches up and restates a historical icon for the modern world. Having lived and worked for nearly 35 years under the unforgiving dictatorship of General Stroessner it is hardly surprising that underlying much of his work was a concern for liberty and human rights.

    During the 1980s echoes of the Dürer series persist but perhaps the sense that as Stroessner entered his fourth decade in power and his days were numbered encouraged Colombino to explore more explicitly political themes. In 1983, for example, he took a wooden chair, partially burned it and then tortured it further by hammering it full of nails. He also drew and painted the chair as if it were a prisoner, tied down, exposed and vulnerable. Here, as in the xilopinturas, wood is the flesh of his art. Ticio Escobar and others have pointed out the way in which wood, so essential a part of Paraguayan history, geography and culture, has always been central to Colombino's work both as medium and metaphor.1

    Colombino was a leading promoter of knowledge about Paraguayan indigenous and popular as well as contemporary art. With Olga Blinder, he founded the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Paraguay in 1972. In 1979 he teamed up with others to create the Museo del Barro, dedicated to the popular arts and crafts of Paraguay to which a Museo de Arte Indígena was later added. This trio of museums is supported by another initiative in which Colombino played an important role - the Centro de Artes Visuales - which provides resources for teaching and study.

    He won many prizes for his painting including Madrid in 1963, Washington in 1965, First Prize in the first Quito Bienal in 1968, and Madrid in 1977. He received a commendation in the Maraciabo Bienal de Grabado of 1977, in 1991 he was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Prize by the Organization of American States for excellence in the field of visual arts. He was a prize-winner in the San Juan, Puerto Rico Bienal of 1995 and in 2002 he was awarded a Konex Mercosur Visual Arts prize. He has had solo shows in many countries in Latin America as well as in Europe and the United States. Colombino lived and worked in Asunción.

    Ticio Escobar, Colombino: La forma y la historia, Asunción, 1985, pp 60-61

    browse the collection

    artist a-z > work type > advanced search >