Lorenzo Homar

Lorenzo Homar

Poster artist, painter, engraver, muralist, athlete and illustrator who was known for developing the art of the Puerto Rican poster. He was part of the 1950s generation of artists who sought to use art to create images that affirmed Puerto Rican identity. He was director of the graphics section of the Community Education Division (DIVEDCO, for its Spanish acronym), as well as the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture’s graphic arts workshop.

Lorenzo Homar Gelabert was born in 1913 in the Puerta de Tierra sector on the outskirts of Old San Juan. His parents were Lorenzo Homar Sampol, a film agent, and Margarita Gelabert Bruguera, both immigrants from Majorca. As a child, he was taught a love of the arts at home, and he also showed interest in sports and acrobatics.

In 1928, he finished elementary school in Santurce. That same year, he moved with his family to New York City after his father encountered financial problems. To help support the family, he dropped out of school and began to work in a fabric warehouse in 1930.

Because of his interest in the arts, he joined the Student Artists League in New York in 1931, where he studied under the tutelage of George Bridgeman, who was known for his drawings of the human body and figure drawings. During the 1930s, he was a champion gymnast at the YMCA in New York. He also joined a group called the Columbia Trio, which presented displays of acrobatics and balance.

In 1937, Homar began working as a jewelry apprentice for Cartier of New York, the prestigious jewelry store based in France. He later worked as a jewelry designer for the company. Meanwhile, he studied art at night classes at the Pratt Institute in New York (1939-1942). From 1942 to 1945, he served in the military in World War II. After he returned to the United States, he rejoined Cartier and enrolled in a night school program at the Brooklyn Museum School of Art, where he took classes with noted experimental artists such as Rufino Tamayo of Mexico and William Baziote of the United States.

Homar returned to Puerto Rico in 1950. That same year he presented his first individual exhibition at the Puerto Rican Athenaeum Art Gallery. Along with Rafael Tufiño, José Antonio Martinó, Félix Rodríguez Báez and other artists, he founded the Center for Puerto Rican Art to promote Puerto Rican culture. The center not only promoted individual work, but also collective works, and conducted art workshops and exhibitions.

A year later, he began working in the graphic arts section of the Community Education Division (DIVEDCO, for its Spanish acronym), which was attached to the Department of Public Education. The division was established to educate rural communities through books, films, brochures and public meetings. DIVEDCO’s activities were announced on posters created in the graphics section. Homar became director of the graphics section in 1952.

At DIVEDCO, Homar, along with many of his fellow artists of the 1950s generation, was able to develop a medium that had been considered dry and impersonal.

He left DIVEDCO in 1957 to become director of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture’s graphic arts workshop. There, he produced more than 500 posters about a variety of cultural and sporting activities. From 1973 until his death, he continued creating his artwork in his own shop.

Lorenzo Homar’s work covers a wide range of media and styles, including drawings, paintings and murals. He also worked as a set designer and wardrobe designer. He is best known, however, for his posters.

Among the outstanding posters he produced at DIVEDCO were silkscreen prints announcing films produced by the Division’s Cinema section, such as Los peloteros (1951), Una voz en la montaña (1951) and Modesta (1956). In these works, he began to experiment with forms, color and media.

He taught many young artists while at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture’s graphic arts workshop, as well as at DIVEDCO, including Antonio Martorell, Myrna Báez and José R. Alicea. Because of the diversity of the activities sponsored by the Institute, the posters created for them covered a wide variety of themes, such as individual and group exhibits, theater festivals, ballets, artisan fairs and tributes.

Among the posters he produced during these years are: Exposición de imaginería popular (1957), Gráfica de Puerto Rico (1958), Exposición de obras maestras por cortesía del Museo de Arte de Ponce (1961), Pinturas dibujos y grabados de Myrna Báez (1962), Ramón Power y Giralt (1963), Exposición retrospectiva de José R. Oliver (1964), Ballets de San Juan presentan María Tallchief y Frank Ohman (1964), Alberto Peri (1969) and Alfabetos de Lorenzo Homar (1971). He also designed ten posters for the Casals Festival (1957, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1982, 1985, 1989 and 1996).

By the late 1960s, Homar had begun to experiment with typography, playing with the form, placement and color of the letters that made up part of the image. Examples are seen in the posters Homenaje a Julia de Burgos (1969), Alfabeto heroico (1971) and Homenaje a Neruda (1971).

The freedom he experienced by working in his own shop allowed him to continue to experiment with typography, as well as with diverse materials, media and forms. Some of the posters he made in this era were for the 8th Pan-American Games, (1979), Gráfica de Lorenzo Homar (1972), The Poster in Puerto Rico (1974), Contesta tipográfica de Martín Fierro a Galileo, época de la computadora (1985), Homenaje a Zenobia Camprubi Jiménez en ocasión de su centenario 1887 – 1997 (1986) and Bicentenario de la Revolución Francesa (1989).

He participated in numerous exhibitions, including these individual ones: Exposición retrospectiva de la obra gráfica de Lorenzo Homar at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (1970); Gráfica de Lorenzo Homar (1972) at La Tertulia Museum, Colombia; Lorenzo Homar: A Puerto Rican Master of Calligraphy and the Graphic Arts (1983) at the Princeton University Library, New Jersey; and Lorenzo Homar, Calligraphy Prints and Posters (1991) at the Pratt Institute Library, New York. Among the group exhibitions in which he participated were Exposición de grabado en el libro y la estampa (1951) at the University of Puerto Rico School of Humanities Exhibition Hall in Río Piedras; 12th National Exhibition of Prints (1954), Library of Congress, Washington; Exposición colectiva de pintura puertorriqueña (1957), Painting Gallery in San Juan; XI Biennale Internationale d’Art (1976), Menton, France; and La hoja liberada: El portafolios en la gráfica puertorriqueña (1996), El Barrio Museum, New York.

Over the course of his life he won a great number of awards and honors: honorable mention in graphics in the Puerto Rican Athenaeum contest (1956), first prize in historic painting from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (1957) and first prize, the Children’s Books Illustration Biennial in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (1971). Lorenzo Homar died in San Juan in 2004.

Reference

Marichal Lugo, Flavia. Ensayo investigativo. Lorenzo Homar: Abrapalabra: la letra mágica: carteles: 1951-1999. Río Piedras, P. R.: Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte, Universidad de Puerto Rico, c1999. Impreso.

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 03, 2014.

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