Popular Art and Social Change in the Retablos of Nicario JimÉnez Quispe

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This volume traces in text and photographs the life and work of Peruvian folk artist Nicario Jiménez Quispe. One of Latin America's most renowned and original practitioners of this art form, Jiménez combines peasant traditions of his birthplace high in Peru's Central Andes with a keen eye and searching mind to create unique works of social and political as well as aesthetic impact. Jiménez expresses himself artistically through the creation of retablos, wooden boxes with colorful, complex and moving three-dimensional scenes portraying a variety of subjects that range from the daily lives and rituals of the Andean peasant to the political and social violence that has swept his home country of Peru over the past two decades. In some of his more recent work, Jiménez has also focused on social, political and cultural phenomena in North America with retablos that depict the human rights struggle in the United States and the plight of Hispanic immigrant who travel to El Norte. Examples of Jiménez's works may be found in the permanent collections of The Smithsonian Institution, the International Folklore Museum in Santa Fe, the Folk Art Museum in San Francisco and the Museum of Man in San Diego. In addition to illustrations of Jimenez's most important works, this volume contains interviews with the artist and essays by historians, art historians and anthropologists specializing in Latin America that describe his fascinating life's journey from Andean peasant to successful artist as well as evaluating the significance of his art.


“This work is a text that celebrates mestizaje. It highlights the richness of a culture that has evolved from the syncretizing of indigenous Andean and immigrant European traditions. Featuring the Peruvian retablo, unquestionably one of the most distinctive genres of Latin American "folk" or "popular" art, this book provides not only aesthetic delight, but documents the culture, politics, and history of the Quechua- speaking communities of the Altiplano of Peru. The vitality resulting from the creative tension between tradition and change is the central theme underlying this collection of essays. While the retablo maintains formal and functional relationships to its colonial and ancient American past, it continues to evolve both in form and content by continually incorporating new and relevant subject matter and concerns related to the present. The chronological range covered by the authors offers the reader a unique opportunity to observe how an art form developed from its inception to its most recent manifestations. Traditionally anonymous, many Latin American folk or popular artists now have established reputations. Nicario Jimenez Quispe is among the best-known contemporary retablo makers in Peru. He is visually articulate in rendering socio-political images of the present and completely comfortable depicting traditional religious themes. Viewing his works, one can easily appreciate that many are equivalent to the best examples of politically astute "fme art" being produced anywhere. These works speak to issues of political chaos, human aggression, and ecological disaster with unparalleled poignancy and virtuosity.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Robert J. Loescher, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Chair in Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and author of Caballero de la Isabela La Católica.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. The Retablo Ayacuchano: A Case Study in the Evolution of a Popular Art Fonn – Tamara R. Williams
2. From Conversations with Nicario Jimenez Quispe: Interviews Conducted by Tamara R. Williams and Steve Stein
3. Living Tradition: Nicario Jimenez Quispe's Testimonial Retablos – Carol Damian
4. Art as Autobiography: The Retablos of Nicario Jimenez Quispe as the Autobiography of a People – Steve Stein
5. Jimenez Quispe Arrives to El Norte – Michael LaRosa
Nicario Jimenez Quispe and the Twenty-First Century – Michael LaRosa
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