Oswaldo Viteri (1931 - )

Sol y misterio sobre el silencio (2002)
Sun and Mystery over Silence

Mixed media on canvas
height: 82cm
width: 65cm

Donated by Oswaldo Viteri 2003


Ecuador is a country of contradictions and in his assemblages Oswaldo Viteri explores these contradictions from his own distinctive point of view as both artist and anthropologist. He selects elements from pre-Columbian or colonial history, and combines them with aspects of present-day culture, both local and global. In Sol y Misterio Sobre el Silencio he takes materials with their own symbolism and transforms them into his own language. The background of this work is made of a piece of damasked silk of ecclesiastical origin that would have been used as an altar cloth or a priest's vestment. Since the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century the Catholic church has played a central role in the spiritual life of Ecuador, as of Latin America as a whole, albeit often adapted to accommodate local beliefs and traditions. Here the fabric, and so by implication the Church, creates a framed stage or altar for the other elements. The central motif, also made up of reused fragments of fine cloth, lace and fringes, has a single gold disk in the centre. In this context, juxtaposed with the ecclesiastical fabrics, this strongly implies the sacramental wafer: the host or body of Christ. It could also, however, be seen as a reference to pre-Columbian beliefs, where a gold disk can symbolise the sun. This reading is reinforced by the row of smaller gold disks along the bottom of the composition, like ritual adornments.

Sol y Misterio Sobre el Silencio, like many of Viteri's works, also makes use of small dolls. These are part of Ecuadorian popular culture: coloured ones (in this case red, and alternating between male and female) are used by children to play, while black dolls are used in magical practices. Viteri manipulates these dolls: here perhaps to represent the brightly-coloured, homogeneous Ecuadorian community with the black doll either as a leader, or outsider, or as a sacrifice to the gods; as colonial or contemporary, indigenous or mestizo.

Helena Pastoriza, 2008

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