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Francisco Zúñiga, Grupo de Cuatro Figuras con Niño, 1960, bronze, 7 3/8" x 7 1/2" x 4 1/2".
Jack Rutberg Fine Arts

October 2013
volume 112 number 9

Jack Rutberg Fine Arts
Los Angeles

This impressive exhibition was a centennial tribute to the Costa Rican-born Mexican artist Francisco Zúñiga (1912-98). Featuring 30 sculptures, drawings, and paintings spanning five decades, it emphasized Zúñiga's fascination with both the sensual aspects of the female form and its architectonic, elemental qualities.

Most ingriguing were a few early works from the 1930s. Recently rediscovered, the two-foot-tall stone sculpture Cabeza de Indio (Head of an Indian) from 1932 is as stolid as an Olmec head yet startlingly modern. By contrast, Chola (1934), a charming oil portrait of a girl, captures the freshness and uncertainty of youth. The three women in the 1939 painting Mujeres (Women) sit quietly in a desert landscape; they are as brown and rooted as the hills in the distance.

As his style matured, Zúñiga focused on sculpture, exploring the curves and heft of flesh in sinuous nudes, as well as the dignity and strenghth of women sheathed in volumnious folds of fabric. While his depictions of both naked and clothed figures are equally accomplished, it is the mysterous cloacked women who fascinate. The artist often portrayed them in pairs or groups, evoking the fundamental bonds of companionship, family, and community. In Grupo de Cuatro Figuras con Niño (Group of Four Figures with Child), from 1960, the women stand so close together that they appear to form a single, formidable mass. Similarly, the 1970 bronze Mujer de Pie (Standing Woman) depicts a buxom character whose pose--arms crossed, hip tilted--projects pure confidence.

-Sharon Mizota