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Public Art

By Janice Zimolzak

When “art for art’s sake” is placed in a public setting, it must fulfill two objectives: first, be highly visible, and then blend with, while enhancing, the existing features of the area in which it is placed. Two sculptures, “Toro,” positioned in front of Bellas Artes, and “Rearing Horse,” in the gardens of El Charco del Ingenio, both powerful works of the late David Kestenbaum, have certainly succeeded in attaining these goals.

Toro was installed in July 2014 in conjunction with “Light and Shadows,” the retrospective exhibition of Kestenbaum’s lifework. As usual, there was a bit of controversy surrounding the installation of such a massive sculpture, but the curators of the exhibit were quite certain that Toro belonged at the front of Bellas Artes. They did have one concern, though. They knew that the head of the bull should face the grand entrance of the building, but that would have turned the tail toward the bust of Doña Carmen Massip. Unthinkable!

Even while the Kestenbaum retrospective remained in the galleries of Bellas Artes, Mai Onno, David’s mother and executor of his estate, agreed to donate “Toro” to the city and allow it to remain in its present location. Through example, the municipality had realized that the public display of fine art added great value to the city’s image and reputation as an art colony. Shortly thereafter, César Arias, whose name is synonymous with El Charco, contacted Mai and revealed his desire that one day David’s work would be installed in the botanical gardens. She knew it was the perfect setting for “Rearing Horse” and donated it, also, to the people of San Miguel.

It is quite fitting that these two gifts of fine art, the work of the progeny of San Miguel’s “first family of art,” be prominently displayed. The late Lothar Kestenbaum and Mai Onno began teaching and creating art in San Miguel in the middle part of the 20th century. Lothar went on to create and develop the sculpture department at Belles Artes.

While both of his parents were a strong influence, even as a young child David had a natural affinity for sculpting. He studied other mediums, but upon earning a degree in art history at the University of Texas, he returned to San Miguel to establish his own studio and foundry. Like his mother, he garnered the fine art prize from the State of Guanajuato (FONCA) in 1997-98, which he used to research casting in bronze. David created a substantial body of work in wood and various metals, always conveying the innate ability to transpose the nature of each element intelligently and with great clarity. Who has not seen “Toro?” If you have not had the pleasure of suddenly discovering “Rearing Horse” while walking along a serene path in the Botanical Gardens, please do… It is well worth the effort. Mai Onno will present her 30th exhibition at Bellas Artes, Cento Cultural el Nigromante on July 30.


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