WORK OF JULIO VALDEZ
understand the work of Julio Valdez, one might attempt to see it within
the context of the great Latin American stories of the twentieth century,
those encoded readings that reveal, at once, harmony and dissonance,
parallelism and divergence. It then becomes possible to see Valdez's
as immersed in both the Caribbean-Latin American world and in contemporary
need to assign meaning to experiences, to constantly be inventing, to
categorize in order to construct meaning - or at least an approximation
of meaning - is reminiscent of the long tradition of attempting to include
in one's own voice an essence of the Latin American. But Valdez's search,
at this point, doesn't have that pioneering drive of, for example, the
Puerto Rican artist Oller who, at the turn of the century, focused on
the asecular, immutable definitions of nature on the island. Valdez
is more humble: he gets hold of fragments of reality, attempting to
establish, fleetingly, some tenuous connections
between unconnected things, connections that could hint at an identity.
the list of things to be assigned meaning is, first and foremost, nature.
The greatest story, since the time of the earliest chroniclers, has
been that of nature untouched, territory undiscovered, adventures not
yet taken. But Valdez seems to ask, "And if this sense of adventure
were our measure?" Everything in his paintings - the sea that redefines
all, the land, like the thin line of the horizon that disappears into
the ocean, the flowers and blades of grass, the fauna, real or mythical
- becomes more intimate in the nostalgic distance of the exiled. Here
there is no impassioned eagerness to span an epic totality, rather a
desire only to appropriate, for memory's sake, the attainable.
formal expression doesn't answer to a defined style (if such a thing
exists), but to his capacity to create his vocabulary within the immense
gamut of references, and the freedom to use them, that characterizes
our times. Nevertheless, his art answers, albeit in a diffuse and unconventional
manner, to another great style of discourse, the baroque, the most genuine
language of "latinamericanism," according to its most brilliant
exponents, Carpentier and Lezama Lima. And if, in effect, our way of
seeing and expressing ourselves is profoundly baroque - that is to say,
synthesized, spiritual, free of imposition, mestizo - Valdez's work
is an example of it.
to the discourse on the baroque nature of Latin American culture is
the mythical-religious. And it is the mythical-religious which runs
like a vein through all of Valdez's work, fusing man and nature, creating
one land and beliefs, incorporating ancestral symbols with contemporary
language, and transforming all into the magic of the Caribbean.
other things, creating a body of work with the vivid richness and conceptual
complexity of Julio Valdez is like coming up with a new theory of what
is Latin American, one that kneads the popular with the cultured, the
traditional with the contemporary. This "story" is not too
far removed from the cosmic race dreamed up by Vasconcelos. However,
it possesses a different tone from that of the pioneering agenda of
modernism. Valdez's tone is more subtle, perhaps a bit skeptical, but
Independent curator specializing in modern and contemporary Latin American art.