Merry Mac Masters

Retrieving the Pictorial Craft, Pedro Diego Alvarado’s Desire..

A couple of years ago, painter Pedro Diego Alvarado (Mexico City, 1956) was commissioned a mural of a fruit stand that measured 1.50 by 2.50 meters in size. A cultivator of still lifes and landscapes since he first began to paint, Alvarado painted the mural at his studio in Tepoztlán, Morelos. When it was completed, he realized that through different approaches to the painting, he could create many compositions. He began to “play” around and the result was a series of 20 “paintings” measuring 53.8 by 53.8 centimeters, which compose the body of Still Geometry, on exhibition at the Gallery Arte Actual Mexicano in Monterrey, Nuevo León.

Geometric Bodies, Angles, Ellipses

Coliflor y col morada, 2002, óleo sobre lino 70 x 70 cmsThe exhibit reveals different "approaches" to fruit: grapefruits, green oranges, mamey, peaches, pears, pomegranates, pineapples, bananas and melons; vegetables—prickly pears, squash, tomatoes, onions—and fish. There is also a large painting of a subject he had been wanting to work on for some time: the oat stacks of Parrés, a road on the way toward Cuernavaca. There is a season when they are harvested by hand and piled into triangular stacks, explains Alvarado in the interview.

Still Geometry has been named after the English term for still lifes. Still or unmovable life is more appropriate, he believes, than “dead nature” as the genre is known in Spanish. And, following that they are pure geometric bodies, angles, and ellipses… Finally, his interest is to recuperate and delve deeper into the craft of painting. He explains: “One sees a Velasquez or a Rembrandt and wonders how they did it. Today we have no idea what the mastery implied by a Velasquez or a Rembrandt means.”

In music, he continues, “a pianist must interpret Bach or Stockhausen. This saves the craft. In painting, if we want to go see a Rembrandt or a Tiziano, we go to the museum. There is no need to reproduce it because it is permanent. This had freed painting, but has also caused it to lose the wonderful craft that reached its peak in the Renaissance”.

Alvarado was not a "prodigal child" and began painting only after completing High School. He studied physics for a year and a half, but remarks that he played with “two very different realities”. At the time, he was also interested in photography, until one day, by coincidence, he found some drawings by Cartier-Bresson, who, at the age of 70, set aside the camera and picked up a pencil. “I went to France, and met him through my grandmother Lupe (Marin). I began to draw (1979-79) and that is when I really began” to paint. Alvarado has also worked in the studios of Ricardo Martínez and Vlady in Mexico, and Armando Morales in London.

As the grandson of Diego Rivera—his mother was Ruth Rivera—Alvarado was finally able to deal with his grandfather’s ghost a decade ago. For the opening of the Amparo Museum in Puebla, he received the commission of a 60 square meter mural that was displayed next to the Riverian collection of Dolores Olmedo. This “confrontation” brought with it a heavy dose of therapy: “First I had a fever. Then I went to Puebla to see Lola´s collection with over a hundred of Rivera’s best paintings. I saw the mural. I didn’t know whether my soul jumped out of me or fell on top of me, or whether my career was over. I could see (the mural) near my grandfather’s paintings. There was both a relationship and many differences between them”.

La Jornada
20 de Marzo de 2001

Oriana Castelló
Merry Mac Masters
Rosario Pinelo
Cynthia Palacios
Leo Rosas
Adriana Moncada
Alberto Méndez