Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Museo del Barro (Museum of Mud) in Asunción, Paraguay

DSCF1244.jpg The Museo del Barro is a private museum originally established to show contemporary ceramic works from Paraguay. There had been a number of innovations with kilns that enabled more sculptoral works to develop, and the museum was seen as an imporant vehicle for this ceramic work to graduate from the street side sales in towns like Aregua, to a gallery context in the city
DSCF1220.jpg The institution was given a new life by a unique collaboration between three directors, Ticio Escobar (shown to the left), Carlos Columbino and Osvaldo Salerno. They brought together a collection that reflects the unique range of artistic life in Paraguay. This starts with the Hispanic Guarani Baroque originating in the Jesuit missions of the 16th-19th century. The marionette-like figures are designed to be dressed with real clothes. There are strong popular traditions, such as the masks donnned during the fiestas, and rediscovered ritual arts from the different Guarani tribes. A rather conservative craft tradition had led to highly intricate forms, such as the Nanduti, or 'spider web' needlework. Alongside this is a contemporary visual art that has responded strongly to the years of repression under the dictatorship of Stroessner.
DSCF1305.jpg The museum installation is quite beautiful, not just because of the well constructed display cases and lighting, but the way different traditional and modern is mixed together. Contemporary popular versions of saints are combined with quite dramatic figures dating back to the 16th century.
DSCF1297.jpgContemporary exhibitions of popular and contemporary art are shown in rooms adjacent to historical displays DSCF1269.jpgSome intricate work in Paraguayan lace, ñandutí..

DSCF1230.jpgSome popular landscapes in watercolour


Guarani carvings.

Quite uncanny words by Osvaldo Solerno.
Cabichuí, a quite remarkable collection of cartoons depicting the War of the Triple Alliance, when Paraguay took on Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

Some contemporary popular ceramics from the town of Tribatí.


A shot from the interior courtyard.

Getting to Asunción is not easy, but it is worth it to visit Museo del Barro and then going on to encounter the living traditions on which it is based. Another example of the amazing rich treasury of southern cultures


Rémy said...

Sounds interesting. I was taken aback a bit at first because "barro" is best translated as "clay." "Lodo" is the Spanish word for "mud."

Kevin Murray said...

Gracias Remy, Yes it's odd that the museum was always spoken about as a 'museum of mud'. Perhaps that sounds more exciting than 'clay'. It contains more than ceramics now, so 'lodo' perhaps captures better the involvement of indigenous cultures.