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Acclaimed local sculptor to grace American School Art Fest

October 31, 2013

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The artist behind some of Jalisco’s most iconic sculptures will be the guest of honor at the American School of Guadalajara’s 25th annual Art Fest next weekend.

Guadalajara native Alejandro Colunga, the creator of the surrealist bronze chairs found in front of the city’s Hospicio Cabañas and on Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon, will be painting with students and performing live music with legendary Tapatio rock band The Spiders at the prestigious American School on Saturday, November 9. The school will also be hosting an auction at the Club de Industriales the previous night, where original works by local and international artists – including two iconic pieces by Andy Warhol – will go on sale.

The aim of the festival is to showcase local talent, but above all, to have a good time. “It’s an opportunity to enjoy ourselves,” Colunga, 64, said at a press conference at the American School on Wednesday. “Young people are the essence of this festival. It’s not just for the children from this school, but for all of the community,” he added, noting that the event is free to the public.

“I still feel like a child at heart,” declared the self-taught artist whose brothers studied at the American School. “True artists are children. Picasso, Dali and Joan Miro all used to say that they always wanted to paint like children. I don’t think they ever achieved it but they made a lot of money trying!”

“I’m really moved by the way the children and young people have responded in the different areas of the arts,” Colunga said, having observed and interacted with the school’s pupils during their art classes. “You can learn a lot from children. They don’t paint or make music with the pretense of selling it. They have such a fun, fresh and spontaneous way of doing it.

They’re not afraid of color or materials, it’s marvelous … They could become great artists, we just need to motivate them.”

“We need them more than we need assassins,” Colunga added, in reference to Mexico’s problems with drug-related violence. “We’re talking about a tough, frightening, brutal reality.

It seems like the human race is going backwards,” he said, before taking a pop at the politicians he feels are responsible for many of the nation’s problems.

“Art and culture distinguishes us from the brutes that govern us,” he affirmed, “I don’t really want to talk about politics, because it’s an art festival (but in parentheses, I think we all know what they are, these scourges).”

Colunga, who has expressed himself through painting, sculpting, music and theater over the years, describes his work as a message of love the community that raised him. “I come from the barrio, I really love my country, my city and its people,” he said. “They’ve given me more than I could ever give back to them in all my life.”

The artwork being auctioned next Friday includes stunning surrealist and expressionist paintings and sculptures, as well as a photograph by Tapatio photojournalist Jose Hernandez Claire, a lithograph by acclaimed Mexican artist Jose Luis Cuevas, and two prints by legendary pop artist Andy Warhol: the simple “Flowers” and the iconic “Campbell’s Soup Can.”

Forty professional artists will then be exhibiting their work at the school the following day, along with a number of talented young painters from first grade through to twelfth. Colunga has produced a special artwork in honor of the festival and his surreal “Tortupulpo” sculpture has been temporarily relocated to the school, affording pupils the opportunity to not only view the metallic tortoise/octopus hybrid from up close, but also touch and even climb upon it.

Among the planned festivities, American School pupils will present a theatrical performance based on Colunga’s colorful life, while the artist will also paint three large (1.80 by 1.40 meters) collaborative pieces with the children. He will then join alumni, ex-alumni and teachers for a live blues, jazz and classic rock performance, before the main musical event of the night, which will see Colunga joined onstage by reformed local rock act The Spiders, whom American School coordinator Rosa Maria Colin described as “the Tapatio Beatles.”

“Music is my passion. I’m in love with rock and classic blues,” Colunga said. “When I was a young boy I was sure I was going to be a rock guitarist.” Although he was beginning to achieve success in the heady days of the 1960s, Colunga abandoned his dream after tragedy struck and three of his close friends died from drug overdoses.

“I stopped playing because I was scared that I would end up like them, as I was also a real addict,” he admitted. Despite since finding fame as an artist, Colunga never lost his passion for music. He continues to collect guitars and would often play alone at home until his friend Tony Vierling, the Mexican-American singer and guitarist of The Spiders, persuaded him to play in public again. Their joint performance should not be missed.

The American School auction takes place at the Club de Industriales (Francisco Javier Gamboa 2, Colonia Ladron de Guevara) on Friday, November 8, from 7 p.m. until midnight. The Festival de Arte follows at the school grounds (Colomos 2100, Italia Providencia) on Saturday, November 9, from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Entry is free to both events.

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