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Xul Solar - El entierro (The Burial)

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Gretel Reguilò

on 4 October 2013

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Transcript of Xul Solar - El entierro (The Burial)

Xul Solar - El entierro (The Burial)
His career
During the years of the war, he struck up what was to be a lifelong friendship with Argentine artist Emilio Pettoruti, then a young man living in Italy and associated with the futurists. Also around that time, he began to pay more attention to painting, first with watercolor (which would always remain his main medium as a painter), although he gradually began working in tempera and — very occasionally — oils. He also adopted the pen-name of Xul Solar. His first major exhibition of his art was in 1920 in Milan, together with sculptor Arturo Martini.
Artist meet artists
In 1924 he returned to Buenos Aires, where he promptly became associated with the avant garde "Florida group" (a.k.a. "Martín Fierrogroup"), a circle that also included Jorge Luis Borges, with whom he was to keep an association and close friendship. It was in this group that he also met poet and novelist Leopoldo Marechal who would immortalize him as the astrologer Schultze in his famous novel Adán Buenosayres. He began to exhibit frequently in the galleries of Buenos Aires, notably in a 1926 exhibition of modern painters that included Norah Borges (sister of Jorge Luis Borges) and Emilio Pettoruti. Throughout the rest of his life, he would exhibit regularly in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay.
Works and interests
Solar's paintings are mainly sculptures, often using striking contrasts and bright colours, typically in relatively small formats. His visual style seems equidistant between Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee on the one hand and Marc Chagall on the other. He also worked in some extremely unorthodox artistic media, such as modifying pianos, including a version with three rows of keys.
Reprints of Xul Solar’s paintings do not prepare you for the vibrant colors of the actual works. You really need to see the art of Xul Solar in person to appreciate it fully.

The early 20th century avant-garde that existed in Buenos Aires is fascinating. It was one of the most dynamic cultural movements of the age yet is poorly documented in English.
He was born in San Fernando, Buenos Aires Province.
His father, Elmo Schulz Riga, of Baltic German origin, was born in the Latvian city of Riga, at that time part of Imperial Russia.
Her mother was born in Zoagli, Italy.
Agustín Solari was educated in Buenos Aires, first as amusician, then as an architect.
After working as a schoolteacher and holding a series of minor jobs in the municipal bureaucracy, on April 5, 1912, he set out on the ship "England Carrier" and made his way to Turin.
Over the following few years, despite the onset of World War I, he would move among France and Italy; towards the end of the war he served at the Argentine consulate in Milan.
The Artist
Xul Solar was the adopted name of Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari (born on December 14, 1887 – April 9, 1963), Argentine painter, sculptor, writer, and inventor of imaginary languages.
In 1916, Schulz Solari first signed his work “Xul Solar,” ostensibly for the purposes to simplify the phonetics of his name, but an examination of the adopted name reveals that the first name is the reverse of “lux,” which references the measurement of luminous intensity. Combined with “solar”, the name reads as “the intensity of the sun”, and demonstrates the artist’s affinity for the universal source of light and energy.
Outside of Argentina, Solar may best be known for his association with Borges. In 1940, he figured as a minor character in Borges's semi-fictional "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"; in 1944, he illustrated a limited edition (300 copies) of "Un modelo para la muerte", written by Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares, writing together under the pseudonym B. Suárez Lynch. He and Borges had common interests in German expressionistic poetry, the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, Algernon Charles Swinburne and William Blake, and Eastern philosophy, especially Buddhism and the I Ching.
Solar had a strong interest in astrology; at least as early as 1939 he began to draw astrological charts. He also had a strong interest in Buddhism and believed strongly in reincarnation. He also developed his own set of Tarot cards. His paintings reflect his religious beliefs, featuring objects as stairs, roads and the representation of God.
He invented two fully elaborated imaginary languages, symbols from which figure in his paintings, and was also an exponent of duodecimal mathematics. One of his invented languages was called "Neo Criollo", a poetic fusion of Portuguese and Spanish. He also invented a "Pan Lingua", which aspired to be a world language linking mathematics, music, astrology and the visual arts, an idea reminiscent of Hermann Hesse's "glass bead game". Indeed, games were a particular interest of his, including his own invented version of chess, or more precisely "non-chess".
Though as a writer Solar is most known for his invented languages, he is also the author of El Aprendiz de Tipógrafo, a collection of stories written between 1927-1940 and never published in Argentina,
His techniques
After a brief experimentation with oils, Xul chose the watercolors and tempera that would become his preferred media. Instead of large-scale canvases, Xul painted on small sheets of paper, sometimes mounting his finished works on sheets of cardboard. One of his early works in what would become his signature format,
demonstrates the confluence of Xul’s internal thoughts and external influences.
His Legacy
In 1939, Xul initiated a project to establish a “universal club,” which he called “Pan Klub” in Neocriollo. His purpose was to create a type of salon for intellectuals and those of mutual interests, and inaugurated the club at his home.
Nearly fifty years later, his widow, Micaela (Lita) Cadenas established the Fundación Pan Klub, based on the original precepts set by Xul during his lifetime. This foundation established the Museo Xul Solar in 1993, in a building whose design was based on Xul’s work. The Museum exhibits works that Xul himself selected for the Pan Klub, as well as house objects, sculptures, and the documents compiling his personal archive. The Fundación also preserves Xul’s home, where his extensive library is located.
Xul Solar was influenced in Italy by the movement of the Futurists and by the German Expressionism, but he did not follow any of them, as he returned to Buenos Aires just after the encounter with Futurism and Expressionism.
When he got back to Buenos Aires, he met Jorge Luis Borges, with whom he shared 40 years of an artistic friendship; in the search of a new Argentine avant-garde identity, Borges and Solar, along with other martinfierristas developed a Neo-Creole identity that fused the tactics of the European modernists with nationalist ideas and the gaucho vernacular culture.
The Burial
The image is of a funeral procession of beings, possibly celestial, led by an angel-figure floating above the ground. The profiles of the figures suggest pre-Columbian art, and possibly an ancient Egyptian influence, as well. The angel-figure as well as the mourners have luminous peaks above their heads, resembling halos. The shapes of the peaks are repeated by tongues of fire that point up from the bottom edge of the painting. The image suggests an afterworld, but it is not clear whether it correlates to the Christian tradition and their understanding of heaven or hell.
Two figures hold a covered corpse, which is also surrounded by flames. The hands of the corpse are folded, but above the corpse, a figure of a baby emerges. That Xul uses a baby instead of an image of the deceased person leads one to read the image as a depiction of reincarnation, and demonstrating the investigation into disparate spiritualities which would continue for the rest of Xul’s life. As the figures get closer to the entrance, Xul reduces them to geometric shapes. The forms cease to be recognizable as beings, and are now getting into what can be a tomb, or a portal. That all the mourners are of the same color as the temple indicates that they, just like the deceased, will make the same transition someday.
Xul Solar’s life during his twenties was marked by profound existential crisis. His writings at the time reveal a profound desire for creative expression, and a kind of angst caused by the profusion of ideas and thoughts he had.
"Entierro" firmly places Xul Solar as a member of this modernist Argentine movement. Rather than painting subjects recognizable as Argentine, Xul’s focus is internal, painting from his own imagination. His early artistic output seems to represent the profusion of ideas and themes that grew out of Xul's contemplations. The flat shapes and bold colors used in the painting demonstrate a Cubist influence. The faces of the figures, particularly the eyes and shapes of heads can be seen as owing to the fashion for art and artifacts from Africa and the Americas mentioned above.
Entierro, 1915, watercolour on paper, Museo Xul Solar, Buenos Aires
Paul Kleen
Marc Chagall
After spending a lot of time looking for the right painting, I have to say that this was not my first choice, because of the lack of different colours. All the same, this painting caught my attention from the point of view of meaning. I think that what Xul Solar depicts here, is a question many of us ask to ourselves from time to time: What is it that happens after one dies? Is there a reincarnation? Is it heaven or hell waiting for us? Or do we just disappear and get back to the earth, where we come from?
I think the painting conveys a strong meaning and it is very well depicted by the author. The use of colours such as red and blue, show us the different states in which one could fall (probably heaven or hell), and the images of the figures taking the corpse, and knowing they will encounter the same destiny one day is nothing but part of the real life.
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