"both the problem and the solution go into my retablos"
September 13, 2020 1:08 PM   Subscribe

"Traditionally retablos would feature religious scenes and saints. I decided to make retablos about the history of Peru and our violent past. This is my life: the sounds of crying, the helplessness. I want to make retablos that hold truth in them, even when it is dark and hard to believe." The term retablo broadly refers to painted or sculpted religious images created around much of Latin America which Spanish colonizers brought to South America. In Peru these often take the form of three-dimensional depictions of complex scenes of everyday life, often secular. (examples by Claudio Jimenez Quispe - see more of this work in this YT video)

Examples can be seen at Silvestre Ataucusi Flores' Casa del Retablo (Google translated). The figures are created from a dough made of boiled potato and gypsum powder and the cedar box designs and colors, usually in a floral motif, are evocative of Quichua textiles. Watch him at work here, and more backstory on him and Ayacucho, Peru know as the "city of retablos"
posted by jessamyn (8 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
My heart has exploded. I love retablos so much I can't stand it. (Here's me, not being able to stand it.) I have three Claudio Jimenez Quispe retablos -- many of my retablos are of unknown provenance (but I love them all). They are such beautiful, precious, fragile things, worlds unto themselves, and the astonishing fact that I or you or anyone could own one to cherish in exchange for money, well I will never get over it.

I wish the first link (The Medium article) had more pictures, because I have heard that politically conscious retablos existed, but I haven't seen more than two or three in pictures. It is the ideal medium to tell a story, and it would be great to see other kinds of stories beyond religious scenes, village life and celebrations. I wonder whether collectors and museums prefer the happy scenes to the more thematically complex ones -- and how that affects what retablo artists produce.

Excellent post, Jessamyn!!! Thanks very much for some great links!
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 10:17 PM on September 13, 2020 [4 favorites]

This is incredible and I love love love it. I think I am going to have to try in my own fumbling way to make an art box of my own inspired by these amazing masterpieces.
posted by seasparrow at 5:22 PM on September 14, 2020

Mod note: Eeee just realized my first YT link was broken, now fixed.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:47 PM on September 14, 2020

Doing an image search I came across this Quechua-language movie about a family of retablo makers. According to wikipedia, "It had its international premiere at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival, where it won a Teddy Award as the best LGBTQ-themed debut film of the festival."
posted by trig at 1:33 AM on September 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

This is lovely. I've always associated the word with stuff that I don't personally find interesting and just skipped past it. It's in the part of the museum I walk through quickly on the way to other things. (Cheers to those who are fascinated by the lives of saints. I don't get it, but I don't object to it.) This is now on my list of things to seek out when traveling in the future. Thanks!
posted by eotvos at 8:10 AM on September 15, 2020

So after watching the trailer I just want to state the obvious that the 2017 film that trig mentions is a traditional fiction movie about a family of Retablo makers who have secrets and family conflict. The family conflict is the main theme of the movie. The retablos are their family business, and certainly important to the film, but it is not a documentary or how-to on retablos. In much the same way that a film about a cabinet maker who has an affair with a plumber will probably have some shots of woodworking and sink repairs, but still the central plot is about infidelity, not dovetailing joints in cedar planks. This doesn't change my desire to see it-- I'll probably rent the movie on Amazon Prime USA tonight, but for me it helps to know what it is going into it.
posted by seasparrow at 8:26 AM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yes, I should have mentioned that!
Here's the trailer.
posted by trig at 11:24 AM on September 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

Inspired by this post, I went digging and found an excellent retablo artist, one new to me, who sells direct to the customer, with shipping to the United States! Gabriel Ataucusi [facebook] does beautiful work, even covid-themed retablos, and will make a bespoke retablo of your family from pictures. Can you imagine? A bespoke retablo???
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 4:46 PM on September 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

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