Juan Antonio Cavo

Juan Antonio Cavo

Was born in Montevideo in April 1932. In 1959 he entered the Taller Torres García, where he studied ceramics and painting with José Gurvich, constructive art with Manuel Pailos, and painting and drawing with Guillermo Fernandez. He participated in exhibitions of the Taller Torres García and made several solo exhibitions in Uruguay and abroad. In 1971 he moved to La Paz, Canelones. He died in 1994.


Short life and eternal clay: 1932-1994 

To remember the work and the person of Juan Antonio Cavo means to bring back to our mind or heart, only one image, because it is impossible  to think of him without overlapping them.

I always felt that life was stingy with him. First, he was slow to discover  clay and ceramics, and second, life rushed in to take away him too early. HIs passion for clay and its encounter was a process full of effort and anguish.

A fight that began with painting, despite the valuable appreciation of his teacher, the painter Guillermo Fernandez,  who then became a friend of his. Cavo faced the picture plane against the  “fear of emptiness”, that is always at the root of all creative act, and there came a time when the anguish paralyzed him. When this occurred – influenced by another teacher, the artist José Gurvich – he began to shape mud and communicate with it, thus perceiving the feeling of freedom, the joy of the creative act and the perception of having found “the right material” that changed his life and humor.

The mixing, preparing and casting mud and its special chalky colour represented only the beginning of the task and was associated with the joy that overwhelmed him somewhere in his dear city of La Paz , an open ditch for some mechanical shovel, we discovered the raw natural siena clay so often appearing in his works.

His spirit was that of a tramp, he was connected with the mud as one who finds  a treasure in the midst of waste mountains and stops in amazement in front of the finding, his soul filled with joy.

“Look what I found,” Juan Antonio Cavo said enthusiastically and download the bag full of mud, imagining perhaps that from there, as if by magic and magical but inevitable act, he could now go around and follow  oval shapes, curved and straight holes looking like windows, where men and women from anywhere in the world joined, because its forms and expressions alluded to be universal, and their eyes, two small spots on the face, as detailed as you wish, are  the easiest and most  powerful way of seeing without boundaries, where the link between the individual and the collective world, the self and the universe are paradigmatically connected.

It is as if the human beings,  populating the creative world of Juan Antonio Cavo (“Cachito” Cavo), represented us all; they rescue the erased differences and fundamental forms of the human geometry; we all, without exception, are parts and Art. By understanding his spirit we can better approach his work and accordingly in front of his work we can become part  of the spirit that made it possible. Many critics often refer to the simplicity of the shapes that are part of his  world of images; through his work, he proposes such images  materializing through the correlation with a similar spirit. Neither one nor the other is true.

“Cacho” combined a lucid awareness of the limits of the human being, in unexpected doses, and the social function of culture, of which art is an expression. He admired all forms of art and he was used to show how he valued and weighted the virtues of others, the lessons learned and the debts owed to those who gave him so much.

In this context, we can deduce that the clarity of his mind, rather than an expression of a simple vision, was the result of a deep internal struggle through which he was modelling and building up a possible way of understanding and translating his unique and irreplaceable perception the world, the things of the world, and of adapting them to the world of art. He suffered, like a few others, from the human condition, and all hidden or visible forms of violence, and by contrast, he cultivated in the territory of the creation, the double idea of feeding his love for art and life through the same action.

“We are made of mud”,  this expression can explain his possible way of being and doing. I remember how he worked mud  in his hands with delicate precision, while we were talking  about everyday life, how he composed the work, moving “the piece” from side to side and sometimes stopping to ask, “how do you like it here?” and then placed  it in the exact place that it required to be.

He drank mate and occasionally he used the warm water of his thermos to mix up  mud  in a cup to realize the “Forgotten barboArtistas /// The short life and eternal clay: 1932-1994 December 2011 / No. 20 Pupil / 21 tina “, and if there was no more water he moistened his finger with his  tongue to stick or smooth the surface;  it was not unusual to  see his face painted with mud, as if he himself camouflaged with the dear raw material of his job.

His figure had already acquired the dimension of his work and it was clear that one was the extension of the other. As he did with his work, he had developed a rhythm for  his life, and in this process no inner struggle is reported, everything seemed to come through with the natural rhythm of the inevitable facts. However, he remember that many times, he completed a work, almost without speaking, with brief moves of his lips or a nod, he hinted he would have preferred something else.

His spirit informed him that when there was nothing more to do, when it was better to leave it as it was and within himself he nourished the hope that it would be “for the next time.” In a notebook or on loose leaves which he then grouped in a series, he realized pencil drawings in which he recorded significant details of his “hits” and he pointed out details about the lights and shadows of the forms that would later become in bigger shapes. He always accumulated experience and knowledge in order to modify and deepen the formal and sensitive content of his work.

Planes with different levels were represented in a world of daily figures, he pierced a humanized universal geometry, cylinders turned into populated towers, as when a cut, showing the fragment, shows the entire universe; huge spheres crowned with small ones, celebrating the human condition of motherhood in a symbolic abstraction; the couple, its being and its geography.

He went walking in the neighborhood with his notebook, taking “notes” of places and people, emphasizing the uniqueness of the whole, and how the plane of a house can join the plane of a tree, a window and a face that loomed out.

He took notes as one who is then going to write a story, unaware of the place where each character would be. The truth is that in the least expected moment, they would be incorporated into the repertoire of his resources and capabilities. “One of these days, we have to go together to draw.” For a long way this was his way of saying goodbye and “see you tomorrow”, an conscious way to feed the generous source of friendship and the everyday meetings. Life took him away too soon.

Somebody  attributes this to the cigar he had so many hours in his mouth  to face disappointments of creative events; others, perhaps the most credible, argue that he has “not gone away” but  continues as his mud, to live eternally in the crystalline beauty of his works,  in human geometry of his figures.

Selected Images