Saturday, August 15, 2015

A00513 - Leonel Maciel, African Mexican Artist

Leonel Maciel (born March 21, 1939), an Afro-Mexican artist, member of the Salon de la Plastica Mexicana, from the coast of the state of Guerrero. Although from a rural area and farming family, he studied art at the Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabaco "La Esmeralda" and has traveled extensively in Europe and Asia, which has influenced his work. His art has changed styles from generally contains multiple elements and saturated colors.
Maciel was born in the small village of La Soledad de Maciel, located in the municipality of Petatlan, Guerrero on Mexico’s Pacific coast.  He was born to a farm working family, in a palapa near the ocean. His family is of mixed African, Asian and indigenous roots, not uncommon for that region, the Costa Grande of Guerrero. He is a tall thin man, from family of tall people, stating that his great-grandparents were two meters tall or taller. One of these was Margarita Romero, called Negra Margarita who was African-indigenous ethnicity.
Maciel spent his early childhood on beaches and among mangroves. He began to draw and paint early, with his father encouraging him even though the region does not have a strong artistic tradition. His father also taught him to appreciate literature and he became fond of Hispanic-American literature and authors such as Alejo Carpentier, Pablo Neruda and Miguel Angel Asturias, which affected his artistry.
Maciel attended primary school for four years and at age ten went to Mexico City where he attended more classes up to high school but he did not study art although he had been drawing since he was a young child. Instead he worked odd jobs and sold some works that he drew or painted. These came to the attention of the Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado "La Esmeralda". He received a scholarship, studying there from 1958 to 1962.
Maciel believed that it is necessary for artists to see as much of the world as possible and be exposed to the work of other artists. His first journeys outside of Mexico included New York and Iceland, where he experienced an aurora borealis. He also spent three years in Europe, but did not use the time to visit museums and other artists. In 1995, he made an eight month journey through Asia in countries such as India, Bali, Thailand, China and Malaysia as well as the various Pacific islands. Elements of what he saw during this trip were then included into his work.
In 2007 Maciel worked on a project to document the cuisine of his native region which inspired a number of paintings.
Maciel lived in Tepoztlan from the 1980s into the 1990s when he began living in his native Guerrero state.

Maciel has had over forty individual and collective exhibitions of his work in countries such as Brazil, France, the United States and Portugal as well as Mexico. His first individual exhibition was as the Galería Excélsior in 1964.  His important collective exhibitions include “Art-Expo” in New York, Erótica ’82 at the Galería José Clemente Orozco and Contemporary Mexican Painters at the Picasso Museum in Antibes, France. He participated in the Myth and Magic of Latin America Biennal in Rio de Janeiro in 1979. Recognitions for Maciel's work include membership in the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana, retrospectives at the Museo del Carmen in Mexico City (2001) and the Museo de la Ciudad de México (2003) . In 2007 his home municipality had a ceremony to honor him.               

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