Arts & Entertainment

Down Syndrome, autistic artists display “kinetic” work at Venezuelan museums

By Genesis Carrero Soto

Caracas, May 18 (EFE).- Kinetic art, inspired by one of its main exponents, Carlos Cruz-Diez, has brought together nine artists with Down Syndrome or autism to display their talents within Venezuela’s National Museum System, a circuit that, for the first time, is making visible the talent of painters with cognitive limitations to emphasize that there are no barriers in art.

“Color sin Limites” (Color Without Limits) is the name of the exposition recently inaugurated at the Carlos Cruz-Diez Museum of Printing and Design Arts in Caracas, where 24 paintings are on display, the work of nine artists of varying ages, six of them with Down Syndrome and three with autism.

The general coordinator of recording and conservation for the National Foundation of Museums, Irarkil Rangel, said that these are artworks “in the strict sense of the word,” given that – in contrast to any limitations that some may think these artists have – the paintings feature the composition, color and structure of any other top-level works.

“In the 32 years I’ve been as the country’s most important museum institution … this is the first time where we’re able to look beyond the subjective characterizations we have of these artists that we could consider to have limitations. But, in reality, when we look at these works, we recognize that no limitation is possible within them, in the strict sense they’re works of art,” he told EFE.

The organizers of the exposition say that it provides a stimulus to inclusive participation in cultural spaces and a window to showcase the talent of groups that, formerly, were excluded from these venues.

That was confirmed by artist and professor of therapeutic art Patricia Jordan, who heads the Painters Workshop school, where children, young people and adults with cognitive limitations receive education and training, and where the works of kinetic art that will be displayed until the end of June were selected.

“For me, this is a dream come true, and for them too, and that’s how they understand it. The invitation is for more people to join (this effort), not to be afraid, that there’s a lot of ability. They have impressive ability in the area of art; what’s needed is for them to understand that and to be able to get the best advantage from it,” she told EFE.

Jordan said that the artists, ranging in age from 12 to 46, know that they are participating in an historic undertaking by being part of the first signed exposition by people with autism or Down Syndrome to be exhibited in a national public museum.

She said that the artists have been training and working for about two years to create works laden with content and bearing their “personal stamp.”

“They loved it, they were passionate (…) It’s been free, they chose their works, their colors and they are already prepared to create that balance in an artistic composition,” she said.

Over the course of a month-and-a-half, the nine artists created the 24 pieces filled with color, depth and lines, and it was a challenge, due to their situations, for them to perform the small and precise movements required to produce the works.

Among the artists is 15-year-old Grace Torres, who displayed to EFE with pride the three works bearing her signature that are in the exhibit.

Her autism didn’t prevent her from explaining that women are the inspiration for her paintings, in which one sees the silhouettes of “little dolls” that, for her, “represent femininity” and the need for women to “have the same importance as men.”

Like her, Emilio Araujo, 40, proudly showed his painting featuring a large pair of lips with a piece of candy filled with vibrant lines and colors, both characteristic of kinetic art.

Motivated by the momentum of the exhibition, Jordan is now focusing on teaching other teachers about the benefits of art therapy for people with cognitive limitations.

She’s convinced that replicating her school’s project will improve the quality of life for people living with autism, Down Syndrome and other disorders.

Kinetic art is art in any medium that contains visible movement or that depends on motion for its effect. Canvas paintings extending the viewer’s perspective of the works and including multidimensional movement are among the earliest examples of kinetic art, but the term more often refers to three-dimensional sculptures and figures – such as mobiles – that move naturally or are machine-operated.

EFE gcs/sb/bp

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