Long Horn Bull Carving by Armando Jimenez Aragon, Oaxaca, MX Tropical cedar wood, pigment 9.75" high x 14" long x 6" deep Provenance: Barbara and Ed Okun Collection
Residing in San Antonio Arrazola, a pueblo in Oaxaca, Mexico, master carver Armando Jimenez Aragon is known for his brightly painted, whimsical sculptures. He is the grandson of Manuel Jimenez, who was a much-celebrated carver in the middle of the twentieth century, with clients including Nelson Rockefeller. |
The Jimenez family are recognized as masters of creating alebrijes, carefully carved and vividly painted creatures, both from the animal kingdom and based in fantasy. No matter what he carves, Jimenez treats it with a shock of painstakingly applied, you-won’t-see-that-in-nature colors: an armadillo, for instance, might have a virtual rainbow of hues across his back, while a rearing bull is imagined with bright orange hooves, a turquoise snout, and a cerulean body.
Alebrijes have their origins in Mexico City in the 1930s, when they were literally dreamed up by artisan Pedro Lenares, but they were so popular that now artisans make them in all parts of the country. Today, Jimenez runs a workshop of artisans, split equally between male and female workers. Unlike other carvers, the Jimenez family uses tropical cedar wood for their sculpture. After it is cut to manageable, smaller pieces using machetes and knives, individual artisans determine what the sculpture will ultimately become. The carving process comes next, followed by a thorough sanding. Painting is a labor-intensive, highly creative practice, in which the personality of each individual artisan comes through in the style and technique of their imagination.
The Barbara and Ed Okun Collection: Barbara Rose Okun (1932-2007) was a pioneer in the fiber arts movement and a master in many media. She was a respected artist, lecturer, curator, juror, fine arts appraiser and writer. She was also an influential art dealer, whose Okun Contemporary Art Gallery in Santa Fe was responsible for launching the careers of many artists who are now considered masters in their respective fields. She was particularly known for introducing emerging master craftsmen in ceramics, basketry and metalwork. Never idle, Bobbi started weaving small pieces when she was ill several years ago, embellishing them with her silver work. She became an award-winning weaver.
Barbara educated and inspired collectors, and many of the nation's finest private art collections bear the mark of her influence. She played a significant role, both as a dealer and a collector, in promoting the recognition of ceramic art as a major movement, and her decision to show the works of master basket makers at the Chicago International New Art Forms (now SOFA) in 1986 was a turning point for basketry. One of my favorite columns was her basketry show here in St. Louis, and ipso facto I was a basketry authority. Always an advocate for the arts, Barbara served on the Boards of the American Craft Council in New York, the St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park, the Crafts Alliance Gallery, the Santa Fe Institute of Fine Arts and the New Mexico Crafts Council among others.