Adolfo Pérez Esquivel: the Argentine Nobel Peace Prize laureate shows his artistic facet

There are the sacred mountains of Peru, the Mayan and Aztec pyramids. Also the favelas, the polluting factories, the peasants, the miners. And, of course, them: the Pachamama, goddess venerated by the peoples of the Andes, the priestesses and Amanda Guerreño, composer and mother of her three children, whom she met 75 years ago. “She appears in all the murals,” he proudly tells LA NACION about his wife Adolfo Perez Esquivelrecognized in 1980 with the Nobel Peace Prizewhile pointing to a copy of the one he made on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Conquest of America.

Detail of the Lenten Cloth, made on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Conquest of America and exhibited in several countriesAlejandro Guyot – THE NATION

“This is maybe the most widespread work of mine in the world, because it is reproduced in churches, basilicas and cathedrals in several countries”, he adds about this Lenten cloth commissioned by church organizations in Germany, where the original is preserved. will be part of the sample which will open next July 2 at the Lucy Mattos Museum, in Beckar. At the age of 90, after almost half a century of his last exhibitions in galleries on Florida Street, he will exhibit there almost forty paintings, woodcuts, watercolours, sculptures and drawings selected by Laura Casanovas.

Sketches made in 1950 in La Boca, the neighborhood where Benito Quinquela Martín invited him to eat noodles in his workshop
Sketches made in 1950 in La Boca, the neighborhood where Benito Quinquela Martín invited him to eat noodles in his workshop Alejandro Guyot – THE NATION

You can see, for example, sketches made in 1950 in La Boca, the neighborhood where Benito Quinquela Martin invited him to eat noodles in his workshop and where he felt at home among the boats, since his father was a fisherman. Or the engravings inspired by the walls that divide humanity, like the one he gave to Joan Baez during his visit to Buenos Aires in 1981, when saved her from an attack. Or the drawings made in bombed-out children’s shelters in Baghdadin 2001. Or the book that records the monument that he inaugurated in 2009 in Poio, his father’s hometown in Galiciain tribute to “all the migrants who came to America”.

Sculpture representing a dove, made in quebracho in 1972
Sculpture representing a dove, made in quebracho in 1972Alejandro Guyot – THE NATION

Hardly an approximation to a prolific artistic career that also includes, among other works, a monument at the Headquarters of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (Acnur), in Swiss; a mural in the Cathedral of Riobamba, in Ecuadorand a sculpture in Gandhi Square, in Barcelona.

Pérez Esquivel with a copy of the Nobel Prize diploma and a portrait of his son Ernesto
Pérez Esquivel with a copy of the Nobel Prize diploma and a portrait of his son ErnestoAlejandro Guyot – THE NATION

I did not approach art, because it was born with me”, assures this human rights activist who lived his first three years in a tenement house in San Telmo, until he lost his mother and was admitted to the Spanish Board of Trustees, in Colegiales. Separated from his three brothers, he became the nuns nightmare. “I was very naughty -she confesses-, the poor things couldn’t stand me”. until the concierge, Galician, took pity and taught him how to carve.

One of the sculptures that will be exhibited at the Lucy Mattos Museum from July 2
One of the sculptures that will be exhibited at the Lucy Mattos Museum from July 2Alejandro Guyot – THE NATION

His maternal grandmother, of indigenous origin and born in Corrientes, instilled in him spirituality and connection with “mother earth”. “I learned a lot from her. She was not illiterate, she was not enlightened, but she was wise. Because wisdom is not of those who read more books; wisdom is in those who understand the deep meaning of life -he observes-. He hardly spoke Spanish, he spoke with animals and plants in Guarani. He told me: ‘I’m going to tell you the stories of my people, in the jungle.’ Since I was a child I understood Guarani, now I only remember the bad words. When I get really angry, I end up bitching in Guarani”.

His work includes a tribute to the mothers and grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo
His work includes a tribute to the mothers and grandmothers of Plaza de MayoAlejandro Guyot – THE NATION

He spent his adolescence working as a gardener and bobblehead. -”I made up the stories to sell the newspapers, one worse than another. He was a great liar”, he recalls humorously, and at night he studied at the Manuel Belgrano National School of Fine Arts. He visited factories to teach workers how to paint and collaborated with Carlos de la Cárcova, architect and son of the famous painterin the realization of sculptures for the Teatro San Martín and the Faculty of Law of the UBA.

Pérez Esquivel with the work that represents death in love with life
Pérez Esquivel with the work that represents death in love with lifeAlejandro Guyot – THE NATION

“I was always a militant, because I come from a very poor home,” explains this man who was arrested, imprisoned and tortured during the military dictatorship. “art heals the soul –he adds-. Y it is through the soul where we can understand who we are. Subud, which is a different view of spirituality, says that death is when the doors of sensations and emotions are closed. And others open, which are those of the soul. There we really rediscover who we are. In this sample there will be a painting that is death in love with life: death and life go together, always”.

Art trails of yesterday and todayby Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, in the Lucy Mattos Museum (Av. Del Libertador 17426, Beccar), from July 2. From Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. General admission: $600; students and retirees: $300

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Adolfo Pérez Esquivel: the Argentine Nobel Peace Prize laureate shows his artistic facet