El Museo Gallery in Bogotá is hosting a major exhibition of the work of Manuel Hernández, an artist who dominated Colombia’s art scene during much of the 20th Century. Titled “El Regreso” (The Return), the gallery has compiled works that span a half century of Hernández’s artistic life, 1958 to 2008, starting with his formative years as an art student at the National University in Bogotá.
Hernández took a turn towards abstraction seeking spirituality in art through form. Abstract art was a departure for Hernández, who like many of his contemporaries, was influenced by the realist social narratives of Mexican muralists, the most visceral of a generation: Diego Rivera. Hernández’s visual language was consolidated by pictorial investigations in which color plays a definitive role, and since the Seventies he delved into symbols that characterize his work, and which he developed over 40 years.
Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee were fundamental artists in the development of his work; from the spiritual, to the need for abstraction as a communicative foundation of color and form. Vicente Rojo was another key reference in Hernández’s career. Under the shadow of the abstract shapes of Rojo, he looked for a continuous enveloping form, closed in on itself, which in a space accommodates laws of circular geometry.
Hernández’s language is contained, austere, decisive and self-sufficient without the need for descriptions. From his student years in Bogotá and Santiago de Chile, Hernández searched for a unique expression, a singular language, his own alphabet of the canvas. Due to his shy and introverted nature, he never wanted his paintings to be controversial, nor have a social or conceptual commitment.
In 1953, at the Leo Matiz Gallery in Bogotá, he held his first solo exhibition of small-format cubist works. Two years later, he participated in the Barcelona Biennale, before his work entered the halls of the Louvre and Guggenheim Museum. After showing at the Venice Biennale in 1958, Hernández was appointed director of the Ibagué School of Fine Arts, but continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome.
The expressionist movement prompted him to move to the United States, where in 1962, he joined the Art Students League of New York, and discovered the work of Robert Motherwell. After exhibiting in Washington D.C at the Pan-American Union, the artist returned to Colombia, and was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the National University.
Hernández went on to exhibit at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá, the Petit Palais in Paris, as well as museums in Madrid, Caracas, Lima and Buenos Aires. The artist was awarded the country’s highest honor in 1994, The Order of the Cruz de Boyacá. Hernández continued to be paint until his death, in 2014, at age of 85.
Galería El Museo
Calle 81 No.11-41
Monday to Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. / Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m