The Annunciation

Ernest Acker-Gherardino [nom de plume of Ernest Acker-Gherardino], 1984

In The Annunciation, which significantly he originally called Desecration, we see perfectly illustrated the all-encompassing awareness that gives Collazo's work its unique thrust. In his searching antiquarianism combined with an acute sense of passing through time, he presents us with a sense of the truly new. One thinks of Piranesi and de Chirico, but Piranesi and de Chirico without nostalgia and regrets.

The Annunciation is a seminal work in Collazo's oeuvre, a prophecy of what we see marvelously realized in the "tapestry" paintings ten years later. As he describes the painting of this picture: he had done a large rendering of Leonardo's Annunciation, so fascinated was he with this master work of the Renaissance painter. Then, he proceeded to "bring it up to date" by overpainting with sgraffito-like gestures. He "attacked" the rendered work as time attacks everything, symbolically obscuring it in skeins of event, enriching it with experience.

What Collazo is saying is that we are not fixed in some permanent past where everything is new, as it was when first completed. Neither can we escape back into some former world. We are here, now; the centuries intrude between us and that once new thing, though it still shines through with a continuing richness. By embroidering on Leonardo, Collazo invites us to embroider on his own work. He says he wanted to make it better, that is, not make Leonardo better, but improve upon his own rendering of Leonardo, to deepen his meditation upon the master. By thus embroidering upon the latter's work, Collazo invites us to embroider upon his own. And here we are treated to a delicious reversal.

We know that Leonardo, in his roaming about the city would discern images in the crumbling and decaying walls, copying them and refining them in his drawings. Now, Collazo, using Da Vinci as starting point, reimposes layers of intervening ages. With sprays, chalks, swirls of paint he gives us city lights, leaps of dancers, windows, exhaust fumes, broken highways, the dark smoky smudges of industrial waste and the red blood of new life. Through it all, we still see the groundwork, remnants undimmed of the master's work. Unlike most painters of his age: self-imposed moderns, cut off in their own small time, eschewing the past in the misplaced rage to be new, Collazo approaches all time, the truly new.

Annunciation is exciting because it shows us the starting point of Collazo's developed philosophy of painting: to live in all time and to see all... Not only to see what we were, but what we have become, which is beautiful in itself. While our minds are flying off into speculative imaginings, the beautiful remains fixed yet pulsating, reassuringly before us. We fly, but do not lose our gravity.

-- Steve Bush

The Author

A life-long friend and patron of Collazo, the late Ernest Acker-Gherardino curated most of the artist's exhibitions except those of late 1985-1988, at which time Collazo was represented by the R. C. Erpf Gallery of New York (see Raphael Collazo: New Work, February 15-March 13, 1986, Raphael Collazo: Recent Paintings and Drawings, November 4-29, 1986 and Raphael Collazo: Healing Gardens, 1988, all curated by Rosemary C. Erpf); the memorial exhibition: Healing Garden, Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, New York, March 23-April 14, 1990, curated by Nilda M. Peraza; and the retrospective: Raphael Collazo (1943-1990) Memorial Retrospective, University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona, October 4-November 22, 1992, curated by Peter Bermingham.

An artist himself, Acker-Gherardino was recently honored by inclusion in the national exhibition Still Working: Underknown Artists of Age in America, curated by Stuart Shedletsky. The six-city national exhibition was inaugurated at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., June 18, 1994 and closed at the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, March 27, 1996. Catalog: Still Working: Underknown Artists of Age in America, published by Parsons School of Design, New York in association with University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 1994.


Unpublished manuscript, "Excerpt from the Steve Bush article on Raphael A. Collazo's Annunciation in November '84 issue of Blue Food art magazine", New York, 1984.