According to many Guatemalans, he’s a national treasure. But he’s not well known outside of Guatemala and I can’t figure out why. His name is Efrain Recinos, Guatemalan muralist, sculptor, engineer and architect, who among many other buildings designed the National Theatre in Guatemala City. On one of my first trips into the city, I saw, experienced and fell in love with his work, as it proudly embellished the many of the national buildings in Guatemala City. This was my first exposure to his work, but after much exploration throughout the city, I was surprise every time my friend Juan Pablo said, “that’s designed by Efrain Recinos too”. When I discovered he’d be appearing at the museum at Santo Domingo in Antigua, I could not pass up the chance to meet him.
I met the Guatemalan Picasso.
His work is diverse, and the range surprised me.
In some instances Efrain Recinos’ work reminds me of a cross between Picasso and Braque (as in this instance).
In an other instance, I was reminded of Edward Kienholz’s Back Seat Dodge which is at the permanent collection at my hometown museum Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art. (LACMA).
And yet, in an other instance, his architectural work reminds me of the Star Wars… Come to think of it, architecture great Frank Gehry does to. The Disney Concert Hall is ike R2D2 and Efrain Recinos’ the National Theatre in Guatemala City is closer to the strom troopers.
…and Guatemala’s storm troopers:
Regardless, I met this national treasure and I am so honored. I hope the rest of the world discovers him before he’s gone.
Recinos believes that museums should not only be in cities, surrounded by cement. “I love it that the works are surrounded by vegetation, in a forest. I think this is the most important thing about this project.”
Speaking in his workshop in the National Theatre, surrounded by drawings, paintings, projects and notebooks he uses to write down his ideas each and every day, Recinos showed the sketches of murals on communication he prepared 40 years ago for a competition, and they were never made. Those sketches are now becoming a reality, because Recinos is creating 10 mosaic murals, using small tiles, mostly blue-colored ones, for the sculpture park.
The murals focus on communication in all of its forms throughout time beginning with drums and including carrier pigeons, the telegraph, radio, and television. To his original design showing telecommunication satellites, Recinos recently added a cellular phone being held by a Guatemalan woman seated on a globe. Previously, she was holding a torch.
There’s one panel still to be designed, and Recinos said coyly that it will depict, “The oldest form of communication and the most intimate: the kiss.”
Recinos’ most compelling piece on the Santo Domingo hill is an enormous metal sculpture based on an old Volkswagen Beetle (that belonged to him during the time the National Theatre was being built, from 1971 to 1978) and showing a large-eyed, shapely-legged Guatemalan woman, or “Guatemalita,” a leitmotif in his work.