Alice Rahon

Alice Phillipot (later Paalen and Rahon) (8 June 1904 – September 1987) was a French/Mexican poet and artist, whose work contributed to the beginning of abstract expression in Mexico. She began as a surrealist poet in Europe, but began painting in Mexico. She was a prolific artist from the late 1940s to the 1960s, exhibiting frequently in Mexico and the United States, with a wide circle of friends in these two countries. Her work remained tied to surrealism, but was also innovative including abstract elements and the use of new techniques such as sgraffito and the use of sand for texture. She became isolated in her later life due to health issues, and except for retrospectives at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in 1986 and at the Museo de Arte Moderno in 2009 and 2014, has been largely forgotten despite her influence on Mexican modern art.

Rahon's early artistic work was in poetry, often writing about scenes and landscapes from her childhood, as well as about her immobility and nostalgia.However, after arriving in Mexico, she began to paint, firstly in satercolours, inspired by the colour she encountered in Mexico. Most of her later work was in oils, but she also created drawings, collages and objects. The main influences in her work are surrealism, poetry, her travels and Mexico. Her work has been described as primitive and intensely poetic, “breathing with and inner life.”Her paintings have some link to surrealism but are also tied to her experiences in Mexico and her use of colour, light and the appearance of landscapes show influence from poetry. Influence from cave paintings and tribal art from her travels can also be seen. Her works were considered mature from the beginning, with abstract elements (not accepted in Mexico at the time) but still representing something concrete, almost always natural phenomena. Her surrealist influence was mostly from Paalen, with important early influences being Moraines, Rendez-vod de vivieres and Cristales del espacio. However, she is also classed with other surrealist artists from Europe in Mexico, such as Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington .Unlike these two, she did not confine herself to oils but experimented with techniques, especially those related to texture, showing influence from Rufino Tamayo.

Her themes include landscapes, elements from myths, legends, Mexican festivals, and elements of nature, along with mythical cities (which represent introspective worlds) and homage to various artists that she admired. Water appeared often, both in form and as the color blue. She made series of paintings related to rivers, similar to those created by Paul Klee titled El Nilo, Rio Papaloapan, Rio Papagayos and Encuentro de Rivieras (painted many years later).She created paintings to honor Giorgio de Chirico, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Joan Miró and Pablo Neruda .Two dedicated to Frida Kahlo include La balada de Frida Kahlo (made shortly after Frida's death), as well as Frida aux yeux d’hirondelle in 1956, which was reworked a decade later.

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