3rd Quarter 2015

On the Trail to Central American Modernism

We at Ford Fine Art are in our third year of researching for the book, Central American Modernism. It started when we realized there was little information about the artists of the nations between Mexico and South America... and nothing written about the artistic period know as Modernism for the area. Modernism starts in the late 1800s and continues into the 1960s. It comes later to Central America, or shall I say, it was brought to Central America.

Artists from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama went to Europe, the United States, Mexico and occasionally South America to study art in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Most of them returned to their native homelands filled with a new way of making art: impressionism, cubism, abstraction and more. They combined what they had experienced with their own cultures, colors and indigenous ways, creating a new art.

Researching with books and the web gave us sparse and conflicting information. We hired historians from each country to write about their art. But still the information was not enough. The biographies of the individual artists were inaccurate, limited and not clear. We needed more. My business partner, Mark Ford, decided to host a cocktail party in each nation to meet the artists, families of deceased artists, gallery owners, historians, professors and anyone who knew the Modernist artists in their country.

Knowing Nicaraguan art especially, we started there. By collaborating with Galeria Pleyades, we had the cocktail event at the Club Terraza. The newspaper posted a photo of all the artists in attendance, a moment in history. It was fantastic how supportive the guests were. They agreed to interviews and allowed us to photograph significant works And we were able to purchase a few quintessential works.

Next our collaboration was with the Galeria 11/12 in San Jose Costa Rica, arranged by Eileen Mora. This time it was staged in the Studio Hotel that was decorated with magnificent works by our preferred artists. Again, we found people excited to help us, and a few more choice artworks to purchase. We meet another historian who agrees to proof and confirm our writing.

In Guatemala, the arrangements were made by the daughter of one of the important artists there. The gallery owner of Sol del Rio arranged for an exhibition of the modern masters. A large important work by Carlos Merida had a prominent position. It had not been exhibited in 30 years. We met and connected with the families, friends, co-workers and associates of these artists... They all brought something to the story, the biography and the art of our artists.

Unfortunately the banks, which house many of the important collections, have not been cooperative. There are new laws about publishing photos of works, so we were denied. But when we went to El Salvador, the road diverged. The galleries are unable to help us but the most spectacular museum in Central America hosted our event and opened it arms. Then Forma, the Julia Diaz Gallery, and Museo Salarrué reached out to assist us in every way it can. The people of El Salvador value their patrimony like no other culture we have encountered.

In Tegucigalpa, we forgo the cocktail party for a small beer fest. Again, meeting one person led to meeting another knowledgeable person, which led to museum curators, historians and artists. We were able to arrange for all the photos and biography information, as well as meet and invest in the work of one of the Honduran Modernist artists, from all the periods of his oeuvre.

The adventure continues as we meet the end of the trail in Panama next. Panama was considered to be a part of South America during the Modernist years, yet geographically it is in Central America. They have some interesting Modernist artists there so we will include them in our book.

Most of these Central American artists went to Europe, the United States, and Mexico to study Modernism, then they returned to their own country to create a new art. We now go to their countries to study them and return to our home to create our homage to Central American Modernism.

People often ask when the book will be published and I reply with a dream date. We have experienced this project morphing in directions we did not anticipate. We want this introduction to the art of Central American Modernism to be accurate, clear and thorough... with lots of photographs, in English and Spanish. It takes time. It takes the cooperation of our team and the people of six nations. We thank them.

Costa Rican historian,
Maria Enriqueta Guardia

Family of Guatemala artist Efrain Recinos

A close look at work by Carlos Merida

Suzanne with Rodolfo Abularach

Niece of Carlos Cañas, Tatiana Cañas and
daughter of Benjamin Cañas, Antonia Cañas Cole

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