CARLSBAD–The City of Carlsbad’s William D. Cannon Art Gallery presents “Tesoros Mexicanos: Mexican Treasures from Two Folk Art Collections,” an exhibition drawn from the private local collections of Lawrence Kent, and Tom Pirazzini and Alma Foncerrada Pirazzini. The exhibition opens May 2 and continues through June 27at the William D. Cannon Art Gallery in the Carlsbad City Library complex, 1775 Dove Lane at El Camino Real.
“Providing free access to quality exhibitions like ‘Tesoros Mexicanos’ is one of the ways the City of Carlsbad promotes arts and culture in our community,” says Karen McGuire, curator of the Cannon Art Gallery. “These programs contribute to the excellent quality of life we are so proud of here in Carlsbad.”
On display are 120 works of art that underscore both the diversity of Mexican culture and the unending creative vitality of the Mexican people, including carved wooden animals, festival masks, burnished pottery, lacquer ware trays and boxes, ceramic trees-of-life, papier-mâché skeletons, corn-husk dolls, and animal banks. The public is invited to attend free, opening day activities on Sunday, May 2, including a film about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo at 3 p.m. and a gallery reception from 4 to 6 p.m., which is generously funded by the Carlsbad Friends of the Arts.
“Tesoros Mexicanos” explores the nature and beauty of Mexican folk art traditions through the eyes of private local collectors Lawrence Kent, and Tom Pirazzini and Alma Foncerrada Pirazzini. For many collectors, focusing on the popular arts of Mexico is a labor of love. The most avid collectors go to Mexico to visit the artisans in their humble dwellings, chatting with them in their own language, sharing their food and observing how they work. Such enthusiasm to acquire first-hand knowledge about Mexican folk artists and their working methods has allowed both Kent and the Pirazzinis to build extraordinary collections of hand-crafted objects.
Mexico holds a unique place in modern folk art. Its artisans produce some of the world’s most exciting and creative examples of art for the common man. Using whatever materials are found at hand, they fashion a fantastic array of utilitarian and decorative objects ranging from simple toys to highly elaborate ceremonial and religious art. While most of the objects created can be clearly identified as coming from a specific locale or region, they all still have an overarching national identity that places them firmly within the category of “Mexican folk art.” Many of these objects are pre-Hispanic in origin and can be traced back in a continuous line from Spanish colonial times to the present day. Since the 1920s, Mexico’s popular arts have flourished and continue to this day with new generations of discriminating collectors helping to keep the traditions alive. It is estimated that one person in every six of Mexico’s population is involved, either full or part time, in the manufacture and sale of “popular art.”
Tom Pirazzini began collecting stamps when he was eight years old, and today is president of an international philatelic society. In 1966, Tom’s first venture into art collecting was a little Nayarit squash pot he bought for $6. A big jump came later when Tom and his wife Alma purchased a 2,000-year-old Mexican pumpkin. They were newly married and such an “expensive” purchase undoubtedly startled family and friends. Today, the bowl sits at the center of their home, glowing with centuries of rich patina. The Pirazzinis attribute their gravitation to pre-Columbian objects to Tom’s profession as a Spanish teacher and their travels in Mexico and Latin America.
Lawrence Kent came from a family of collectors and by the time he was a teenager, he had found his own particular passion in the popular arts. On his first excursion to his ancestral roots in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, with his grandfather acting as guide, he delighted in the rich Czech folk art he saw in small museums and galleries. Kent claims it was there that he developed his basic understanding of how to be a “collector.” Over the years he expanded his visual horizons, traveling to meet with collectors and artists, eager to understand each culture producing the work he was so passionate about. Today, alongside his brothers (who also share the “collecting” passion), he runs their company, Kent’s Bromeliads, which gives him the opportunity to travel the world and continue to build his collection of folk objects that range from the utilitarian to the decorative, the humorous to the whimsical, and the spiritual to the exotic.
Operated by the City of Carlsbad’s Cultural Arts Office, the William D. Cannon Art Gallery is a focal point for arts and culture in San Diego’s North County, offering a broad range of exhibitions, school and family programs, gallery tours, lectures and publications to the community. It is open to the public from Tuesdays through Sundays.
For information on all Gallery programs, please contact the William D. Cannon Art Gallery, (760) 602-2021, or visit www.carlsbadca.gov/arts.