Reflections about Raphael Collazo's Work

José Antonio Pérez Ruiz, 1999


Throughout his life, Raphael Collazo (1943-1990) put all of his determination into developing a body of work that reflected his multifaceted character. He directed his task in a very personal way. The use of private symbols let him bring together in his canvases both conscious and subconscious subjects. His search for ever wider and more distant expressive horizons did not permit his task to be circumscribed by ephemeral fashions, nor did it let the transitory impose restrictions on his works. Rather, it allowed his inner impulses to act and to call forth the elements that he incorporated in his paintings. What was necessary in his creations depended upon whatever he believed to be right at the moment of painting them. Observing his work as a whole, we perceive that he maintained an aesthetic independence. It is difficult for us, therefore, to ascribe him to any schools or movements. Nevertheless, we can affirm that Expressionism constituted the liberating catalytic agent of a labor for which he was forced on many occasions to interrupt the sequentiality of time. When that happened, he could reveal an esoteric knowledge that can place us in futuristic spaces and even can bring to mind transgalactic cultures. These are panels dominated by spiraling strokes that create turbulent sensations. Among those brushstrokes, isolated visions begin to appear, not yet completely materialized before our eyes. When we look at these panels, we note how those pictorial whirlwinds act. They seem to behave as if demarcating the space in order to establish their own world. At times, we seem to discern compositions planned to contain within them new paradises. Those brushstrokes seek to emulate the action of the Almighty when he gave order to preexisting chaos.

At other times, the artist made use of chance occurrences, extracting from them images susceptible of interpretation, whose function is to stimulate the imagination. In these cases, his realizations provide rich interpretative challenges. In them, we find paths that branch off to give way to subjective manifestations. Thus, he favored individual interpretations that transform each canvas into a place where all of these understandings meet. An example of this is the piece titled Sentinel (1984). The aforesaid painting confronts us with a space where our view is obstructed. The obstacles induce us to explore every centimeter of the composition. There, the changing frequencies of the brushstrokes guide our visual exploration, since they require the eye to make varying rhythmical shifts. In that way, one can extract the latent contents in order to translate the pictorial drama written into each work. At other times, the movement of the brush makes us think about the lively streamers of carnival settings.

Among Collazo's creative variations, exist monochromatic panels in whose nucleuses emerge diffused figures that seem to constitute themselves through a process of molecular assemblage, making us see those beings in the processes of formation, like specters whose motions do not obey the laws of physics. Those personages enter into the scene like irresistible forces that leave in their path a desolating wake. They act in deserted environments where it is almost impossible to delineate the horizon from the sky. The surfaces are marked by irregular textures, similar to isolated blobs, on the support. Those scars accentuate the aridity existing in these conceptions and contrast with the saturated atmosphere prevailing in others. In Exit (1984), the humidity of the panorama is enhanced by the presence of amber lights that contribute a hint of a remote and pleasant memory. A matter worthy of mention is the achievement of distinguishing and following the rays of sunlight that filter through the foliage.

Many times, Raphael surprised the spectator with paintings that have unrestrained festive atmospheres. The differing intensities of these pictorial celebrations as they were expressed throughout his career attract our attention. In Party (1979), the festivity displays spectacular aspects which develop within the confines of a type of solemnity that emerges from a carnival group. The work deals with a form of ritual performance wherein each person represents an assigned or desired role. In this oil, the joy is limited to the immediate setting, since the fabulous costumes and masks act as a passport from reality toward fantasy. That borderline condition is evidenced in the being who transforms herself into the center of attention, revealing a gesture that contrasts with the joyfulness conveyed by her attire. A different tone exists in Simultaneity (1987) and Il Viaggio de la Speranza (1988). In them, the joy overflows the canvas. These works host a crowd of participants in transcendental events. It is as if the celebrants are awaiting a specific instant, similar to what happens during the countdown to welcome in a new year.

At the present time, in Galería Matices, an exhibition of the deceased Raphael Collazo (1943-1990) is being shown. When we observe his paintings, we realize that he was an artist with the ability to communicate feelings. I am of the opinion that he accomplished a task of which he was indisputably conscious: of leaving a body of work without conceptual fissures.

Cover Photo

Determined Personage, 1989


Catalog, Profound Domains, Galería Matices, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, December 7, 1999-January 8, 2000, curated by José Antonio Pérez Ruiz. Translated from Spanish by Marisol Uzal and Martin Haggland.