With so much bad news coming out of Venezuela these days, the show opening this weekend at the Tampa Museum of Art is a welcome reminder that the country, now so mired in poverty and political strife, has a rich and diverse cultural heritage. Oswaldo Vigas (1923-2014) is a prime example, a protean painter whose influences ranged from Pre-Columbian to Picasso, and whose imagery continued to evolve over his long career. The continual “transformations” in his work are fascinating to trace. From the Bruja (Little Witch) series inspired by Venezuelan mythology, to passionate, thickly painted gestural abstractions, to the sharply defined geometries of his murals for the University of Caracas, it’s as if we’re looking at paintings by three or four different artists rather than the oeuvre of a single man. But there is a through line, an independent vision that he summed up this way: “I was never rigorously abstract or rigorously figurative. I’ve really tried to be rigorously Oswaldo Vigas.”
Oswaldo Vigas: Transformations, the first U.S. museum exhibition devoted to the artist, features 60 works created between 1940 and 1980, including 40 paintings and a selection of sketches and drawings. It was organized by the Grand Rapids Art Museum and made possible with support from the Oswaldo Vigas Foundation and the Grand Rapids Art Museum Exhibition Society. 1/31-5/27, Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza. Tampa. Hours of operation are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday*, Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. *Fourth Fridays from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. 813-274-8130, tampamuseum.org.