Claroscuro literally means “light-dark,” a mash-up of the Spanish words claro and oscuro.  In artspeak, claroscuro (or Italian: chiaroscuro) refers to a painting technique associated with the later Renaissance and Baroque periods that involves the contrast and layering of very dark pigments and very light pigments, exaggerating the presence and absence of light.  The darkness of claroscuro paintings, however, is not a flat, monstruous void;  rather, painters worked ferociously to create depth, layers, complexity, and texture in shadows outside of the spotlit holy faces.  Here in Quito, claroscuro dominated artwork for several centuries and left its traces in artwork and otherwise all over the city.  Beyond the world of art, however, I see the paradoxical and simultaneous occupation of light-with-dark reflected also in Precolumbian art, contemporary Latin American literature and philosophy, conceptions of race and gender, and even the mountainous misty landscape.  I chose Claroscuro as my title not only for its historical, aesthetic, and intellectual resonances, but also because it embraces my own confused and bedazzled relationship with Latin America itself.


~ by Tara on January 18, 2012.

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