Gallery Open House Features Oaxacan Woodcarvers
By Susan Page
While many types of Mexican folk art have their origins in pre-Hispanic art and have evolved over hundreds of years, the much beloved carved and painted wood animals, birds, and alebrijes (fanciful monsters) that have now made three Oaxacan villages famous for their wood carving go back only as far as the 1950s.
Small wooden toys and masks were commonly carved before that time, but in the early ’50s, Manuel Jiménez Ramírez pioneered more elaborate and colorful animals and encouraged other wood carvers to do the same. Jimínez was inspired by papier mâché artist Pedro Linares’s alibrije, a term he coined which came to him in a dream. It was not until the 1980s that the woodcarvings became enormously popular. The author of a book about Oaxacan crafts says he spent three summers in Oaxaca during the 1960s and was unaware that any woodcarving was going on at that time.
Now, more than 800 families in three villages make their living by creating ever-more beautiful and innovative woodcarvings. Among the most skilled and creative of these are Franco and Nellie Ramírez, located in San Antonio Arrazola, right at the base of the magnificent mountaintop ruins of Monte Alban.
The Ramírez family has distinguished itself by creating large-scale sculptures and also by developing distinctive painting techniques and surface treatments. Their skill in carving animals that are lively and full of motion and gesture, combined with their exquisite and highly skilled painting, make these carvings exceptional.
Franco Ramírez learned woodcarving from his father, who was one of the early wood carvers in the village of Arrozola. When Gallery Atotonilco owner Mayer Shacter and I first visited Franco and Nellie, they had a tiny newborn. It has been a pleasure to see this sweet boy become a toddler. Franco and Nellie have created a beautiful showroom for their work, which ranges from small to very large-scale sculptures. We visited Arrozola recently and now have a large selection of Ramírez sculptures in the gallery. They are wonderful works of art, which include conversation pieces for children’s rooms and grand sculptures fit for an entrance or living room.
At this time, the gallery is also featuring the spectacular sturdy baskets made by the Wounaan indigenous group in the coastal jungle region of Colombia. These vibrant and intricate baskets, widely considered to be the most beautiful baskets in the world, are the result of ancient weaving traditions passed through generations of the indigenous peoples of the Darién rainforest. Because of their dazzling designs, vibrant colors, and extraordinary technique, these baskets have gained international fame for their intricacy and beauty and are highly regarded by collectors.
All Are Invited to the Open House This Weekend
The gallery, usually open only by appointment, will host an open house on Saturday and Sunday, August 24 and 25, from noon to 5pm each day. We will serve refreshments. Directions to the gallery are on our website: galeriaatotonilco.com. 415 185 2225 or 415 153 5365.
Galeria Atotonilco Open House
Featuring master wood carvers
Franco and Nellie Ramírez
Sat–Sun, Aug 24–25, Noon–5pm
Directions to the gallery on our website
415 185 2225/415 153 5365