Exhibition of paintings by the preeminent realist painter Claudio Bravo opens at Marlborough

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Exhibition of paintings by the preeminent realist painter Claudio Bravo opens at Marlborough
Claudio Bravo, Morteros / Mortars, 2001. Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 39 3/8 in., 80 x 100 cm. © The Estate of Claudio Bravo, courtesy Marlborough Gallery, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- Marlborough Gallery announces an exhibition of paintings by the preeminent realist painter, Claudio Bravo. This is the artist’s first show since his untimely demise in 2011 and consists of approximately 40 oils on canvas which were executed during the time he was represented by Marlborough.

Bravo’s command and understanding of the effects of light were the hallmark of his career of more than fifty years. He proved that he could paint any subject he chose, and his oeuvre was marked by consummate treatments of the human figure, both nude and clothed, still lifes, portraits, interiors, religious and mythological subjects, drapery and colored papers as subjects in themselves, and to a lesser extent landscapes and cityscapes. Perhaps his most famous subject was the paintings of “packages” which take on a surreal, other-worldly quality and whose essence could be said to transcend their physicality into a mystic aura of religious contemplation. The show features four large triptychs as well as two paintings of this quintessential, unique subject. While the show also offers the chance to see several superb examples of the artist’s most minimal subject: the ineffably beautiful paintings of colored papers, the exhibition’s greater body of work is devoted to still lifes and shows Bravo’s highly finished technique in the treatment of this timeless theme. His mastery of this subject is seen in all manner of forms and materials such as in ceramic pottery, lamb skins, aluminum foil, straw baskets, clay amphoras, stones, machinery, cloth, plants, flowers, water, among others. One could say that the physical surface that Bravo could not conquer did not exist. In all his work “he consistently pushes boundaries, periodically referencing elements from Surrealism, abstraction, minimalism, Pop art, and even photorealism, though he works from life, not photographs.” The high achievement of his paintings lies in the nature of their seeming simplicity, a simplicity which belies their complexity and which arrives at clarifying painting’s formal values of line, form, and color. They are classic and modern, detailed and reductive, imaginative and inventive.

The late Gerrit Henry described Bravo’s work in Art in America as “astonishing and riveting” and said his “paintings are praiseworthy in their fidelity to both the homely and the rare and for their rapt declamation of technical values that somehow bespeak the spiritual.” In Bravo’s show of drapery paintings at Marlborough, Ken Johnson in The New York Times spoke of their “transcendental grace” and called his work “a tantalizing mix of the spiritual and the sensual.” One could surmise that it was Bravo’s uncanny control of space and light that was central to his work and that gave his paintings their “evocative calmness” and their “hallucinatory reality of a dream.” In this connection Bravo said, “The objects I paint transcend and magnify reality. I use light somewhat in the way Francisco de Zurbarán did. He was one of the few painters that gave true transcendent meanings to objects. This treatment of light makes them appear more as they are. Their essence is greater.” In his book Claudio Bravo (Rizzoli, 1985) the author and teacher Edward J. Sullivan wrote, “Bravo’s art in many instances seems to straddle two worlds, that in which we exist and another slightly beyond our comprehension: Bravo has taken the real to another plane of perception.”

Bravo was born in 1936 in Valparaíso, Chile. He was the second of seven children. He attended a Jesuit school in Santiago and briefly studied art in the studio of a local painter. Largely self-taught, at the age of 18 he had his first exhibition in Santiago and became a sought-after portrait painter. He left Chile in 1961 for Europe and eventually settled in Madrid where his portrait painting met with great success. In 1972 he moved to Tangier where he stopped portrait painting and devoted himself to the exploration of the full range of subject matter for which he became world-known. He had his first show in New York in 1970 at the Staempfli Gallery. He joined Marlborough Gallery in 1981 and before he died had nine exhibitions at the gallery. This, his tenth, will act as a commemorative exhibition in honor of this great artist. Bravo lived and worked in Morocco: in Tangier and Taroudant.

Bravo represented Chile in the 2007 Venice Biennale at the Museo Diocesano. Also in 2007 he had museum shows at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterey, Mexico and Espace Bellevue, Biaritz, France. In 2004 he had an exhibition at the Musée du Monde Arabe in Paris. The show was devoted to subjects Bravo has painted relating to the Arab world. Previously, he had been given two retrospectives: the first in 1987-88 at the Elvehjem Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin, which traveled to the Meadows Museum, Dallas,Texas and Duke University Museum of Art, Durham, North Carolina; and the second in 1994 at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile. In 1997 an exhibition of his “package” paintings was shown at the Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, Florida.

His works may be found in the collections of museums around the world among which are the following: Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museo Nacional de Bellas Arte, Santiago, Chile; Museum Boymans-van Beunigen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; and the Rufino Tamayo Museum of International Contemporary Art, Mexico.

In 1996 Bravo received the prestigious Gold Medal of Honor from Casita Maria settlement house of New York, in 2000 he received the “Art Miami International Distinguished Artist award,” and in 2005 he was inducted into the Pastel Society of America’s Hall of Fame.

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