Wladimir Zabaleta: Splashing Caribbean colors on universal art
To have extracted “Las Meninas” by Diego Velázquez from the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain, is undoubtedly the most precious gifts that the Venezuelan artist Wladimir Zabaleta, 67, has given the world and especially Latin America.
Velázquez’s eternally famous work, considered one of the symbols of Western painting, was reinvented with the mist of the Caribbean sea and the mischievous brushes of one of Venezuela’s contemporary artists who enjoys a wide international exposure.
“The fascinating thing about the work of Velázquez is its realism. And a realism that is so beautiful that it does not hide the ugliness of the people,” Zabaleta said as he approached a monumental Menina, one of his own, titled “Tribute to Our Lady,” which is perhaps the largest Infanta Margarita (queen’s daughter) ever created. Situated on the north side of Valencia,Venezuela, It was unveiled on Jan. 27 as part of the beginning of a cultural program titled “Ciudad Museo” (City Museum), which uses very large outdoor sculptures to highlight creative talent.
Tribute to Our Lady
“The genius of Velazquez and his infinite genius make you forget for a moment the subjective ugliness of people and you fall in love with painting, with sculpture, with art.”
Zabaleta fixed his gaze for a few moments on his work, then described it as if he were reciting a poem: “She is like a little lantern in a large tunnel of artistic needs,” he said, adding that “only art and education allow us to dream. Although I do not paint dreams, I get inspired by a work to make others dream.”
This virtuoso has developed his artistic talent not only in painting but also in drawing, etching and sculpture. He found places to expand his creative ideas beyond the borders of Venezuela. Thus, France, Spain, Mexico, Italy and the United States, especially New York, have influenced his particular style.
His stay in New York, from 1989 to 1993, is considered by Bélgica Rodríguez in her book, “Zabaleta,” as the “years of prolific pictorial production.” She also said that city offered him a break for his creative needs, allowing “unprecedented existential and artistic experiences.”
Zabaleta said he will continue creating, using his Caribbean palette, “but in an elaborate manner. I do not paint for the sake of painting. I do not create for the mere fact of creating.” He said that “being at the forefront means transforming a spatial object into a symbolic object.”
Born in Valencia, Venezuela, on May 12, 1944.
He studied at the Arturo Michelena School of Fine and Applied Arts in Venezuela. He became the school’s director in 1979.
Between 1971 and 1979 he was director of the Carmelo Fernández School of Visual Arts in San Felipe, Venezuela.
In 2009 he received an honorary doctorate in education from the University of Carabobo in Venezuela.
Did you know?
In Mexico in 2005 the National Symphony Orchestra premiered the suite, “Dos Visiones” (Two Visions). The piece was inspired by the work of the same name, created by Zabaleta.
Later, the Long Beach Museum of Latin American Art in California, acquired the original piece for its permanent collection.