With a mop of unkempt, curly hair and thin-framed eyeglasses, Chilean sculptor Tótila Albert (1892-1967) looks more like feverish mathematician than the innovative but often forgotten creator of bronze, marble, plaster and cement representations of the human form. Despite Albert’s keen eye for the structure and function of the human body, this is the first exposition of his work in Santiago in twenty years.
Photo by Kendal Montgomery
This two-room exhibit in the showroom at Parque de las Esculturas features plaster and bronze heads and representations of the body, embossed plaster canvases and a collection of sheet music, poetry and photographs from Albert’s career.
The most prominent pieces of the collection are the bronze and plaster portrayals of the human body. The works differ from the traditional, stoic Greek interpretations of the body, with the images conveying the function and utility of the body rather than the grandeur of the individual. The nude bodies are gracefully contorted in yoga-like positions, accentuating muscles, tendons and contours. Many sculptures are overtly erotic displays of couples, although the libidinous nature of the pieces is minimized by an image of harmony, balance and communion.
Albert creates a sentiment that the connection between pairs transcends the limitations of the body to emulate the soul. There is also interplay between the bold sexuality of the pieces and womb-like, nascent qualities, echoing the cyclical processes of the human experience.
The sheet music and handwritten poetry reflect the profound influence of Germany in Albert’s career. Albert studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin from 1915-1923, a period of profound creative development for the artist. In fact, he achieved his initial fame in Germany during this time through his sculpture “Las mujeres de la montaña” before age 23. Inspired by the music of Johannes Brahms, Albert would often create poetry from the music. He also wrote poetry to accompany many of his own works.
Although the plaster heads of Beethoven, Simon Bolivar and Rosita Renard and the bronze head of Gabriela Gildemeister are emblematic of Albert’s work, it is his representations of himself that are most striking. Albert made a plaster of his hands and face at 30 years old and at 60 years old. In these pieces, Albert employs an uncharacteristic level of attention to detail. Unlike his other pieces, these representations demonstrate texture, such as the wrinkled on his aged face, the individual hairs of his eyebrows, or the web of lines of his hands. It is a departure from his other pieces because detail takes precedence over the nuances of form and motion.
Not all of Albert’s major works could be included, but the exhibit highlights the originals with either replicas or photographs. The famous “Rodó” monument that is currently situated in Parque Balmaceda in Providencia is represented in the exhibit through supporting documents and photographs from its 1944 inauguration. The monument, dedicated to Uruguayan writer and politician José Enrique Rodó, pays homage to Presidente Pedro Aguirre Cerda y Ariel.
Often Tótila Albert’s work slips under the radar, but the ever-applicable ideas of the human body itself as our greatest instrument does not lose its pertinence.
“Homenaje a Tótila Albert”
Sept. 30- Dec. 20, Mon.-Sun 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sala de Exposiciones, Museo Parque de las Esculturas
Avenida Santa María 2205, Providencia
Metro: Los Leones