Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar
(1922 – 2004)
Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar was born in Pamplona, Colombia in 1923. He pursued his studies in Bogotá, first in architecture and ultimately in fine arts. From 1950 to 1956, the artist sailed for a period of time, traveling around Paris and New York City, which was key in the assertion of his interests, especially in abstraction. His endeavors began in abstract painting and then gradually evolved into geometric sculpture by the way of white, monochrome reliefs. During this time, he became acquainted with the work of the most influential artists in Europe and New York City, some of whom he met in person. It is in New York where he would become active alongside Edgar Negret, in one of the city’s most successful art circles while participating in multiple exhibitions.
In 1956, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) purchased one of his pieces. Back in Colombia later that year, the artist started creating very large public reliefs, the first of their kind in the country. In 1958, he won the Guggenheim International Selection Award and, from then on, his trajectory started to accelerate: he did a number of large murals and public sculptures outside his home country, became a teacher at New York University, represented Colombia in 1969’s Sao Paulo Biennale, and continued to participate in the New York’s bustling art circles, while intensely experimenting with different materials and colors.
Upon his final return to Colombia in 1974, he created the large-scale sculpture Sixteen Towers, on the top of Bogotá’s Hills, which is now an outstanding banner of the city’s public art collection. Other important exhibitions in his career include the 1976 Venice Biennale in which he represented Colombia, The Rufino Tamayo Museum (Mexico), Le Grand Palais (Paris), Museum of Contemporary Art Caracas, and the Museum of Art of the National University Bogotá. In 1990, a Museum was opened to preserve and honor his legacy in his hometown of Pamplona.
It is often hard to talk about Ramirez Villamizar without mentioning the work of fellow Colombian sculptor Edgar Negret. Ramirez Villamizar’s work was never about spiritual references, other than his thoughtful way of living and working. Negret dedicated himself exclusively to form, and produced an astonishingly coherent body of work from beginning to end. For example, some scholars agree on the idea that his early paintings prefigure his posterior tridimensional work. Extremely focused and contemplative, the artist spent a great part of his life examining and collecting seashells, whose forms served as inspiration for his pieces. His exclusively formal explorations were in tune with those of his peers, particularly Louise Nevelson, and made him a part of the “cool” abstraction current for the time he remained in New York City.