Opening Nemesio’s suitcase

Opening a suitcase is always a mystery, but the fact that this means opening the house of Melchor Concha, the place where Workshop 99 operated for years, is quite an event, since with it the Nemesio Antúnez Foundation (FNA) inaugurates its first exhibition called “La maleta de Nemesio”, composed of 15 lithographs related to the trades, the Quinchamalí series and images that reveal part of the history of Chilean engraving.

Now talking about metaverse is part of the lexicon that is incorporated almost by osmosis. However, when we refer to engraving, we immediately associate it with something distant, which is part of the tradition, and even if the perception is not entirely wrong. We agree that the technological breakthrough is not a counterweight to this captivating technique dedicated to the reproduction of unique originals.

Although I must underline that although this is a task that became relevant after Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), taking charge of a legacy in which the figure of Nemesio Antúnez and the workshop 99 are fundamental is in itself a challenge, since the fact that many Chilean visual artists trained among lithographic stones, cloths or buckets with perchloride is illustrative, and no matter what stage of their process they are in, they return to this house of Melchor Concha, because they feel its tender refuge, and also because it was the first place where, after Guardia Vieja and Casa Larga, Taller 99 finally managed to have its own space.

In this panorama of recovery and testimony, it is important to highlight the work of the Nemesio Antúnez Foundation, entrusted by his daughter Guillermina, mainly for the conservation and dissemination of invaluable material, part of which is exhibited in its first exhibition “La maleta de Nemesio” , composed of 15 lithographs related to trades, the Quinchamalí series and images that take us back to unique moments related to Chile in the 1950s.

All thanks to a set of papers kept in a travel suitcase by the artist himself, who embarks on a new journey, made up of two exhibition walls with 2 themes linked to the work of Nemesio and Taller 99. All accompanied by a series of testimonials historic photographs that suggest a profound reflection on the role that instructions play.

To assume that everything cultural is preserved in Chile not only sounds sarcastic, but is part of our endemic illusionism, which without even realizing it has made the erasure or permanent disappearance of heritage sites a disastrous tradition. Therefore, opening this suitcase implies reopening the history of Chilean engraving, and recovering the House of Melchor Concha, also means completing the painting by reviving its protagonists, or simply by reaffirming the continuity and correlation between artists of different generations (consecrated and emerging). with Nemesio, Roser Bru, Ricardo Irarrázaval, Eduardo Vilches and María Inés Solimano, the latter two present at the inauguration, since this house continues to house an important part of our cultural heritage.

Returning to the above, the Quinchamalí series shows the potters of the southwest area of ​​Chillán, who have had the denomination of “Living Human Treasures” since 2014, but also because at the end of 2022 UNESCO declared them Intangible Heritage of Humanity to the artisans of Quinchamalí and Santa Cruz de Cuca.

For this reason, it is striking that Nemesio, already in the 1950s, had established his interest in this important referent of popular and peasant tradition. As evidenced by the mural and mosaic made by Antúnez in 1958, in the access to the former Huelén cinema in Pasaje Juan Esteban Montero, located in San Antonio with Paseo Huérfanos, which today is hardly a widespread memory. A fact described by Ramón Castillo in a 1997 article – “A clear example are the more than 100 figures combined in said sequence that begins on the ground and ends with an oil painted mural on the cinema ticket office.

The painting reproduces a dance of goats and pitcher women under a blue stone moon that has, until now, been hopelessly lost among the gallery lamps, the announcements of new releases and the evident deterioration of the wall”. However, highlighting the symbolism of this popular expression carries with it the valuable contribution these women are still making. Something that is undoubtedly recognized in this sample in which the main axis continues to be Chilean.

One more reason that reveals the deep attachment that Nemesio had for his land and his people. This principle is reaffirmed in various etchings of this exhibition, such as Carrusel, El manicero or Bicicletas, also from the 1950s, in which Nemesio’s attention was focused on the individual and on his work, as a representative and identity phenomenon . growers have also approached, such as Santos Chávez, Carlos Hermosilla, Pedro Millar or José Venturelli, just to name a few.

Finally, to pause in the emotional memory expressed in a series of photographs that record different moments of the workshop and of this house from which the paradigm is challenged, since the Nemesio Antúnez Foundation, by opening this suitcase and these doors, prevented, as many other heritage spaces, will end up demolished, gutted or transformed into a mechanical workshop, vulcanization or place of worship, perpetuating an eternal contradiction.

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  • The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of The meter.

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