Alejandro Xul Solar (1887-1963)
- Alejandro Xul Solar
- signed and dated 25 lower center
- watercolor and ink on paper
Rachel Adler Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Mexico
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Latin American Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture & Prints, May 18, 1993, lot 26, illustrated in color
Private Collection, New York
Nineteen twenty-four was the annus mirabilis of the artist, poet, translator and esoteric scholar Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schultz Solari, and the year he returned from a twelve-year self-imposed exile in Europe to his native
Argentina. Shortly before embarking to Buenos Aires, he met in Paris with the English clairvoyant Aleister Crowley, who taught him a secret method for undertaking mystic visions. He adopted the “nom de plume” Xul Solar and perfected the neocriollo, a Pan American lingua franca aimed to correct the misunderstandings of natural languages as well as a semiotic tool for his
image-research on the supernatural.
Solar started to transcribe systematically into notebooks his visions written in neocriollo where he described his fantastic encounters with angels and demons in order to explore the knowledge of the occult and its underworlds.(1) This year also coincided with Solar’s aesthetic alignment to the Martín Fierro magazine-newspaper avant-garde group and his lifetime intellectual friendship with one of its members, poet Jorge Luis Borges. It was also in 1924 when Xul began to develop a very personal and distinct artistic language through a series of exquisite watercolors in which he created architectural compositions ciphered on his mystical visions.
Mundo summarizes the central preoccupations and recurrent themes of the most prolific chapter of Xul Solar’s artistic journey, which spans from 1924 through 1939: an in depth exploration of the infra consciousness, a search for a transformative channel through art, magic and spirituality to overcome the devastation of the war, the development of a strong yet personal avant-garde
language sparkled with regional imagery (flags and words in Nahuatl and neocriollo), and the optimistic hope in the Argentinean and Latin American cultures as the promised lands for the future of mankind.
Mundo presents a colorful yet symbolically complex cityscape in which passersby, spirits, gurus, and tormented souls are located in different strata of the infra world, but coexist with the everyday anxieties of modern urban realities. A line of people (penitents) are depicted walking from the lower planes to the higher ones to reach a superior order where the sun, the moon, an industrial smoky chimney, and the Argentinean flag dominate the axis of the composition. Notably, the painting is morphologically organized through the structure of an ascendant stairway-flag with side pillars and geometric
buildings adorned with palm trees and intersected with stripes and forking paths that unfold layers of the world that we as imperfect beholders can only see. It is not accidental that Aleister Crowley stated to Xul: “Your record as the best seer I ever tested stands today…” (2)
World is an exceptional work in which a rich symbolic spectrum of Xul Solar’s mystic visions is revealed to the viewer. The painting presents a corpus of esoteric knowledge and the intricate beauty of Xul’s architectural compositions, positioning him as one of the most creative members of the global modernist avant-garde.
(1) Solar named them San Signos (literally holy signs). See Patricia M. Artundo, Los San Signos. Ed. Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires: Fundacion Eduardo F. Constantini; and Fundacion Pan Klub, Buenos Aires, 2012. (2) Letter from Aleister Crowley to Xul Solar, dated December 11th 1929.
Archive of the Museo Xul Solar, Buenos Aires.