Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jorge Alvarez: Atypical Williamsburg Artist

Jorge Alvarez(1953 - 2007): A Retropective
is on view at
Figureworks through Feb. 17.
Jorge Alvarez: La Cochita. charcoal on tea stained paper. 13" x 20"
Property of the artist's estate.

Sitting next of Jorge Alvarez in Randall Harris’s weekly drawing group, I could not help being struck by—and admiring—his facility with a pencil. It was very linear, reminiscent of David or Ingres. He was he unusually talented, a draftsman of the first rank, but it was always a little strange to encounter a 19th Century academcien in the middle of hipster Heaven.

The more I got to know Jorge, the more profound, deeply expressed his neoclassicising Romanticism. He very neatly substituted pre-columbian mythos and the magical realism of his native Colombia for the orientalizing tendencies of his Second Empire artistic forebears.

To visit his studio was to turn the calendar back before Monet, before Delacroix. All the trappings were there: velvet curtains, animal skeletons, a platform for a reclining model, and an artist in fine, unstained but slightly threadbare attire. His huge, luscious, allegorical tableaux leaned against the walls, with the preparatory studies in sepia and sanguine pinned nearby.

Those sketches, though light and deft of hand, were as rigorous in their way as the big canvases. Randall was able to secure some of each for his memorial retrospective, and the two forms are both essential to properly understand Jorge’s world. One can like them or not depending on taste but I’ve never met anyone who did not respect them. They have authority.

Jorge knew only too well that his tastes were out of step with the so-called Art-World (sounds like a craftshop in a mall when written that way, doesn’t it?). Savannah was the perfect place for him and his students there loved him well. Anyway, the works—and especially the work—were motivation enough for Jorge.

After a long chat in his studio, and more than a few of his little juice glasses of wine, the time came for me to go have dinner with my family and he declined my invitation. I asked what he was up to, he poured another glass and sighed, "Looks like another night of passion." I knew exactly what he meant and clinked my empty to his.

"Here’s to the artist’s passion!"

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