The Francisco Narváez Foundation is a non-profit institution created in 1985 whose essential purpose is the preservation of the artist’s legacy through the assessment, compilation and documentation of all the information related to his life and work. As a part of this effort, it supports exhibitions, academic works, publications and educational workshops based upon the organized corpus of documentation on the Master, which is readily made available to persons and institutions involved with the fine arts. From its inception the foundation is committed with the recovery, restoration and preservation of monuments and public works carried out by Narváez, and it has accordingly participated in important integral rescue proposals of public spaces in different locations of the Venezuelan territory. This labor is complemented with a significant development in the academic field which has been conveyed through strategic associations to other institutions’ personnel in response to the need to maintain, preserve and restore public monuments as well as privately-owned Works of smaller dimensions.
Ascaso Gallery and the Francisco Narváez Foundation have organized this anthological exhibition comprising an ample series of paintings and sculptures elaborated with diverse techniques and materials in different stages of the life of Francisco Narváez, undoubtedly one of Latin American most outstanding artists.
“Mommy, they’re naked!” The commentary was about Narváez’s Las Toninas graceful figures silhouetted against the exit of the tunnel of El Silencio. From the rear window of the car I turned around to see the fountain and the robust bodies of the mermaids riding on the dolphins. For me it was the beginning of the ride to Puerto Azul. As a child, I sometimes went with my mom to visit my granddaddy EBN, who back then was the official chronicler of the city of Caracas, at his studio, a small apartment with generous windows facing Narváez’s fountain at Parque Carabobo.
This sculptural group formed by resting figures enhanced the park’s intimacy under the shadow of the mahoganies. My mom, a former pianist with music embedded in her bones, never missed a concerto at the newly-built Aula Magna of the Central University. We used to go with her. Daddy left us at the foot of Narváez’s La Cultura right in front of the Rector Square and proceeded to park his car further ahead. Caracas seemed to be full of Narváez: nearby stood El Atleta to the side of the Olympic Stadium, and there was also Rafael Urdaneta’s equestrian statue at La Candelaria square, and the figures on top of the neo-classical halls of the Fine Arts and Sciences museums which we visited on Sundays.
Narváez’s opera prima is of course inspired by the academic art promoted from the Parisian Julian Academy where he studied by the late 1920s. He soon returned to Venezuela and spent decades fostering the ideals of a new society, visually characterized by the exaltation of the human body and a sort of allegoric art with didactic purposes which idealized Education, Science, Culture and Sports, inviting to transcend individuality and fully participate in the social corpus. His auspicious cooperation with Carlos Raúl Villanueva gave him the opportunity to work on the ornamentation of buildings and large-scale public works. Narváez’s monumental oeuvres were carried out in the atelier, with the majestic spirit and poses of classical art, but proudly displaying the features and fibrous bodies of a mixed race. The acknowledgment and exaltation of this segment of Venezuelan population signaled the prompt incorporation of popular masses to the social processes taking place after the death of Juan Vicente Gómez.
With his usual accuracy, Arturo Uslar Pietri thus described what was going on in the artist’s tiny workshop in Catia: “For many young people schooled within the limitations and scarcities of the time and the prevalent political situation, this remote place was a sort of revelation. In there, everything could be said and taken apart.
On the walls you could see Narváez’s brown-skinned Margarita women and their silver fish, and wood-carved colossal mulatto girls and hieratic faces rising under plantain clusters, and Negro women passing by as witnesses of a people which symbolically had started to march forward. In those days, Francisco Narváez’s atelier was the home of the highest Venezuelan hopes. Neither before nor after have I seen anything comparable.”
Reading those words from the distance, Narváez appears as pioneering a nation which we hope has not yet been lost amidst today’s ravings. With the present artistic initiative, the artist’s family and Ascaso Art Gallery as their representative introduce a new cycle aimed at reviving public interest for a work lovingly dedicated to the Venezuelan family. Perhaps Narváez’s main concern was to articulate a visual system meant to develop the idea of progress in a perfectible society, peacefully, according to the tenets of the modernist Utopia. Reviewing his work we feel the warmth of Venezuela’s profound body being recovered and repossessed. We salute the publication of this beautiful book which reveals an unceasingly current character. The moment is right to submit Francisco Narváez’s aesthetic values and national ideal to the evaluation of a new generation of Venezuelans.