Ramón Oviedo is the most important painter from the Dominican Republic.
He was born in the Dominican province of Barahona. Oviedo’s formal studies in the visual arts were few. He confessed that his artistic education was based on having continuously attended museums and exhibits. He did study cartography and photogravure in Panama. He worked for a while in the advertising world and in the 1960s he entered the world of art full time.
Oviedo always kept in touch with President Juan Bosch. In 1963, he won a poster contest sponsored by Bosch’s government, just before the coup that removed Bosch from power. In 1965, Oviedo joined the movement that was trying to restore the ousted president to power, a cause that was unsuccessful because the United States military invaded the Dominican Republic to keep Bosch from returning to the presidency. His painting, 24 de abril, gets its title from the date of the beginning of the revolution. Because of both its magnificent execution and its historical reference, this piece is considered one of the master works among paintings from the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean.
In 1972, Oviedo won an award at the Sao Paolo Biennial. Two years later, he won First Grand Prize at the Santo Domingo Biennial. During the 1970s, he put on a retrospective exhibition of his work and was invited to participate in various tributes and festivals. In 1982, his mural, Mamamérica, was inaugurated at the headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington.
In the 1980s, various museums acquired his works (The National Museum of Nicaragua, the House of the Americas). Oviedo participated in the Biennial of Havana and, once again, in the Biennial of Sao Paolo. Later, the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, one of the most important museums in the world, acquired a self portrait of the artist.
In 1992, his mural Cultura Petrificada was inaugurated at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris. That same decade, he unveiled murals at the Puerto Plata International Airport and the University of Santo Domingo, both on his home island. Today, various works of his adorn a variety of Dominican governmental buildings, such as the Congress (the work El nacimiento de la Constitución), the Ministry of Culture (the Ramón Oviedo Hall), the Supreme Court (with Justicia), the State Department for the Armed Forces and the Venezuelan Embassy (Bolívar es América).
Many of his paintings have touched on political topics from a leftist perspective. Crucifixión, Siglo XX, for example, recreates the death of Che Guevara; the painting that decorates the Venezuelan Embassy proclaims the importance of Simon Bolivar in the Americas. He has also explored existential themes, however, such as birth, sexuality, and death, as well as exploring the iconography of the Taino societies.
Aesthetically, his work shows influences from abstract, surrealist and expressionist art (his work has been compared with that of Francis Bacon). In his paintings, Oviedo often incorporates a variety of materials, such as cord, paper, fabric and plaster. In Forma Semi-Definida, for example, he integrates a cord from which a kind of mummy “hangs.” Oviedo often scratches the various layers of paint on his works to recover the color and as a result his paintings often have a texture similar to the bark of a tree, the land, or leather.
In 2002, the government of France named him a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. The Small Larousse Dictionary has an entry under his name.
Author: Alejandro Carpio
Published: April 14, 2012.
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