Eduardo Carrillo (Mexican, 1937-1997)
Testament of the Holy Spirit, 1971
Oil on panel 47 3/4 in. x 60 in. (121.29 cm x 152.4 cm)
Crocker Art Museum Purchase, with funds from the Maude T. Pook Acquisition Fund1972.24
During the 1960s, especially in California, Chicano artists began to explore personal identity amid the momentum of the civil rights movement. Eduardo Carrillo, in particular, mined the vast Pre-Columbian and Hispanic cultural inheritance for signs and symbols. Born in Santa Monica and a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Carrillo created an art of personal, enigmatic revelations, on canvas and in public art. As early as his graduate studies and an early solo exhibition at the Los Angeles Ceeje Gallery, it was apparent that Carrillo’s interests were narrative and allegorical, setting him apart from Southern California Hard-Edge Painting, Pop Art, and L.A. Finish. In 1966, Carrillo moved to La Paz, Baja California, home of his grandparents, and established the Centro de Arte Regional, which he directed until 1969. His activist bent, however, faltered on his return to Los Angeles. The violence that marred the Chicanos against the Vietnam War demonstration in August 1970 disillusioned him, and he moved to Sacramento for a brief time. Testamento de el Espíritu Santo exemplifies Carrillo’s resulting turn to the visionary. The coiled snake—in reality an ashtray—is a Pre-Columbian symbol of profound importance, signifying spiritual awakening.1 Its reappearance in the 1975 Woman Holding Serpent similarly depicts transformation, acting as a guide on her climb to the heavens. Las Tropicanas is Carrillo’s most fantastic composition outside of his mural art. Its medley of the bizarre summons our contemplation of altered states of consciousness. Among a host of elements are many animals and symbols of civilizations ancient and modern, indicating that we are present at the wellspring of myth, an alternate dimension formed of shifting optical and theoretical perspectives. In this place, the gods and goddesses of many cultures assemble, binding the contemporary era together.