If you are interested in abstract art and you would like to visit a gallery, don’t waste your time hunting for one in downtown Guadalajara. Instead, head for the woods.
Yes, amazing though it may seem, CIANF, Jalisco’s only Center for the Study and Diffusion of Non-Figurative Art, is located inside a large private home in Pinar de la Venta, transformed about a year ago into a gallery and school for abstract art.
CIANF’s founders are architect José “Pepe” Olivares and his wife Rosalía. The center really took off in May 2017, when it hosted an exhibit of archive paintings loaned by Mexico’s most prestigious institute of abstract art, the Museo de Arte Abstracto Manuel Felguérez in Zacatecas.
“We had works by famous artists such as Felguérez himself, the Catalans Josep Guinovart and Jordi Boldó, as well as the creator of Guadalajara’s Los Cubitos sculpture, Fernando González Gortázar,” Olivares told me. “People flocked to see these masterpieces and local TV and newspapers called the exhibit a great success.”
Intrigued, I popped in twice to observe the art lessons Olivares gives to children and adults every week. That’s where I discovered that, like Picasso, this teacher is just as talented in depicting realism as abstraction.
“I often start with drawing or painting recognizable subjects such as flowers or a landscape,” Olivares said. “After my students have mastered these basic techniques, we move on to removing elements until only form and color remain.”
Ana Rosa, one of the adult students, said the classes serve as “therapy” for her.
“I forget my children, I forget all my troubles and I relax totally. I really look forward to coming here every Thursday. I just wish I could do this twice a week.”
Olivares’ said his first “artistic awakening” took place at the age of four.
“In my childhood, matches were used a lot, especially for lighting the stove. My father showed me a matchbox which had a reproduction of a famous work of art on its cover. These were called Clásicos de Lujo la Central and my father gave me a challenge. ‘I bet you can’t draw this,’ he said and I replied, ‘Oh yes, I can!’”
In third grade, Olivares drew a picture of Mexican independence hero Miguel Hidalgo.
“I did it on a big sheet of pasteboard and I remember the pride I felt at succeeding to do this, even though I suspect my drawing must have been pretty ugly. But with that, I decided that art was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And from then on I drew and drew. This is why I am involved in giving painting classes to children here, because this is when a vocation can be born.”
Olivares’ father was practical enough to convince his son to take up architecture as a career, which he did at the University of Guadalajara.
“Among my teachers were people like the German architect Hors Hartung, who knew a lot about pre-Hispanic architecture and also about modern abstract painters and sculptors. His classes were delicious! I learned a lot from him. We had a class with him called ‘Integración Plástica’ which involved aesthetic games, playing with volume. We were not trying to represent anything or to copy anything from nature – it was all about forming pleasing shapes. It was an exercise in abstraction, working only with forms and colors, and it was here that I got my introduction to abstract art.”
The CIANF Center not only plans to hold exhibits and workshops, it also wants to promote research into abstract art.
“We are working to set up a library here where people of all ages could learn about abstract art, do research and experiment with different techniques,” Olivares said. He would be happy to receive donations of art books for the burgeoning library.
On October 7, CIANF launched a new exhibit featuring the work of three abstract painters, Héctor Navarro, Francisco Medina and Bertha González. This will run through January 7 and can be visited Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for no charge. It is best to call in advance to let them know you are coming at 333-616-6242 (cel). Contact can also be made through their “CIANF” Facebook page. For more information, Google “CIANF Abstract Art Gallery.” If you are interested in taking painting lessons, give Rosalía or Pepe Olivares a call.
How to get there
Take Avenida Vallarta west out of Guadalajara. Eight kilometers past the Periférico you will see a sign for Pinar de la Venta. Make a u-turn and go into the main entrance of this community, a big square arch. Immediately turn right onto Paseo de las Primaveras and drive about 400 meters to house number 98. In front of the gate you will see a telephone pole clearly marked with a big red 9. Pole nine is an important landmark because house numbers in Pinar are hopelessly jumbled. Driving time from the Periférico: about 15 minutes.