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Ramon Oviedo: Critics' Roundup of this Important Dominican Master Painter

Critical reviews and introduction to the work of Dominican painter Ramon Oveido.

After a 23 year banking career which took me to work in eleven countries, I decided to dedicate my life to the promotion of art. I sought out the best living contemporary painters of Latin America. One of the two I represent is Master Ramon Oviedo from the Dominican Republic. He is the premier living Dominican painter, and his paintings are of extraordinary force. I have organized exhibits for him in Ecuador, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and the U.S.A., and am currently seeking the right gallery or museum in New York to show his works.

Since I am also Dominican, I had seen his paintings for many years in museums in my country and elsewhere. as well as in magazines, murals etc. I have always been familiar with the works of this extraordinary painter. In 1965 he won his first important prize, for a painting referring to the Civil War in my country in that same year. That painting is considered to be among the best ever made by a Dominican artist. Master Oviedo and I are now close personal friends--and I represent him worldwide.

Oviedo has been seen all over the world. His murals are in such places as the Organization of American States in Washington D.C. and the headquarters of the UNESCO building in Paris, France. At the present, he is exhibiting in Miami, the island of Guadeloupe, by special invitation at the Biennial of Cumana in Venezuela, at the Saloon of Autumn in Paris and also at the 30th International Festival of Painting in Cagnes Sur Mer, France. Painters such as Rufino Tamayo, Oswaldo Guayasamin and other glories of Latin American art have praise his works for many years.

Here are some critical reviews of Oviedo's work:

"During the Dominican Civil War, Ramon Oviedo, who was from the Dominican Republic, began his career as a painter of social and political subjects, turning towards existential issues in the mid-seventies in a period of personal crisis. His work of this era was typically neo-figurative, with surrealist overtones, as can be seen in Sterile Echoe (1975), one of a series of paintings in which he explored the questions of birth, life, sexuality and death. Much of the emotional tensions of his work derives from the contrast between the self-contained plasticity of the tumbling figures, which include an anguished self-image, and the spatially ambiguous, blood red background. Oviedo's work of the mid-seventies lacks specific references to his Dominican background, but his later, more abstracted works often include motifs from the Taino art."
Veerle Poupeye, 1998
Caribbean Art
Thames and Hudson Ltd. London

"...he has received numerous awards and honors for his work over the years. He has represented his country in Biennial exhibitions, and has executed important mural commissions in the United States and Latin America, including the OAS General Secretariat Building in Washington D.C. (1975). His dedication to the qualities of plastic expressiveness inherent in the act of painting has occupied him through the years. He continues to dedicate himself to painting by using striking new methods and techniques to enhance the surface of his works and imbue them with powerful, often ritualistic, presence. Now in his seventies, he maintains a full and rigorous painting schedule and has a remarkable ability to maintain fresh outlook with considerable technical experimentation and the exploration of new subjects and means of expression.

This exhibition is entitled Evolutionary Persistence of Form in Matter (Persistencia Evolutiva de la Forma en la Materia), and pays respect to this expressive materialism that has been so much a part of his oeuvre. From within the depths of complex surface textures, there emerges a personal vocabulary of signs and symbols, artifacts, animals, and human forms that transforms each work into a meaningful discourse on the human condition. Inspired by ancient concepts regarding life and death, themes of duality, primitive markings and glyphs, and nature in her most mysterious guise, Oviedo incorporates a variety of material (string, paper, cloth, gesso) into his imagery that brings them to new life.

The surfaces of Oviedo's canvases are reminiscent of withered skin, bark, or some other natural material. He works in layers, scratching away to reveal color beneath, and leaves the marks of his process like the graffiti of the past. In "Forma Semi-Definida" (1997), a petrified mummy is suspended in time and space by actual strings, and parts of the canvass have been slashed and stitched. The haunting countenance of the ancient artifact is hanging helplessly in the void of infinite reality. Such eerie forms also appear in womb-like abodes and caves. No less distressing is "Forma Atrapada" (1997), a fleeing red figure that refers to the vanishing civilizations of the New World. His concern for the extinction of humans and animals in the wake of progress has been present throughout his career."
Carol Damian
Art Nexus, No. 29, August - October 1998

"Oviedo created in his art a terrifying simulacra of the fear and death that were part of everyday life in the post-Trujillo era. Dramatic figures defined by strong coloring characterize the work of Oviedo, who has consistently employed social criticism in his art. In his latest pieces, geometric forms and references to Taino Indian themes make their appearance."
Janet Miller, 1996
Latin American Art in the Twentieth Century
Edited by Edward J. Sullivan
Phaidon Press Limited, London, England

"Because of the new plastic values introduced by Oviedo's art, the Dominican Republic can legitimately be considered, in the most ample sense, to have one of the greatest masters in Latin American contemporary art...." Jose Gomez Sicre, 1982

"A canvas by Ramon Oviedo is never totally captured upon the first viewing. A multiple substrata, as much physical and technical as it its symbolic, reveals its richness as our gaze penetrates the work's interiors. The fascination begins with the space, which is more open, more atmospheric than ever. We observe a spatial concept that organizes the figures not only in space but in time as well. Ramon Oviedo's backgrounds resemble the archives of memory, and progressively oblivion, of distant recollection. We pass from nebulous insinuations to minute configurations. The structures emerge, float, gravitate."

"Ramon Oviedo has been and continues to be one of the most genuine representatives of Dominican expressionism, in his dominant themes of the human condition and its dramas, in his formal distortions, sustained by the virtuosity of his anatomical drawings, in the vitality of his surfaces, which resemble skin or bark....In reference to the material consistency of the painting, no one has surpassed his brilliant stains, areas that are smooth and fluid, dripped grooves and impasto, scratches and scarification of the pigment. The viewer's eye receives the impression that it penetrates beyond the material world into the interiors of an "evolutionary persistence."
Marianne de Tolentino
President of the Association of Art Critics of the Dominican Republic
(quotations dated 1997 and 1984)

"The Dominican Master closely parallels important classical theories of esthetics, such as those of Bernard Berenson, who sees in all of art a resource with which to intensify life rooted in corporeality and biology; or of Worringer, who identifies figurative art with psychophysical empathy.
Dr. Laura Gil, 1997
Vice President of the Association of Art Critics of the Dominican Republic

Oveido's main site is at http://www.ramonoviedo.com.


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