A symbol of universal history

For some years Mónica Luza has been dedicating her paintings to the Lima-Bean theme, which in her Peruvian homeland is called <pallar>. With the motive of this image she has concentrated her style of artistic expression.

Though the pallar does not seem to be very important,  it still plays an important role in Peruvian culture today. And this for more than two thousand years. Already then, the pallar was represented in stones, ceramics and textiles.The pallares also served in daily life for divination, games and counting. These and other works by Mónica Luza are created in the style of a blackboard or table. They recall the clarity of an original language of images that did not want to be art but to directly convey precise meanings.

However, Mónica Luza goes beyond the transmission of knowledge. Her works are rather part of a broad artistic investigation. The subject of the painting focuses on its graphic characteristics and becomes a symbol of communication.These works investigate the origins of communication and question the meaning of language and its form of expression. They thematize the dimensions of the meanings of signs and symbols.

Each work stays for itself but also as part of a complex context of a plastic artistic reflection of conceptual painting. In the motif of the pallar, the artist recognizes a symbol of the development of language and writing, a symbol of myths and legends, a symbol of the infinity of expressive possibilities of culture and finally a symbol of universal history.

Martin Schönfeld
Art critic
Berlin, 2006


Looking for the lost sign

As is known, in Peru there have been several studies on the meaning of the painted pallares (Lima Beans), interesting by the way, but only hypotheses raised without any certainty, so that they remain silent signs for us. It is curious how Luza has worked these signs, extremely schematized, almost minimalist, to mean several things:

 A first meaning is the association that we (Peruvians) make with the colors of the pre-Hispanic tradition. Second, the cryptic character of the pallar (about which we know nothing) that adds an aura of mystery. Third, the allusion to an accounting method or abacus, is deduced from the way the pallares are exposed, some gathered, others occupying an individual support. But they can also be interpreted as chips of a game; the mysterious play that only Luza knows. Fourth, faced with the unsolved mystery, however, there remains the possibility of an unconditional identification with the sign, for cultural reasons, which tells us about the Peruvian and about a thousand-year-old tradition. 

Thus, Luza, with subtle allusions to the pre-Hispanic world, would be telling us about the impossibility of deciphering these signs, and therefore, the refusal to understand the culture behind them. The proposal refers to the attractiveness of the mystery, the seduction of the cryptic, the admiration for a dazzling culture, but which we do not understand. A culture that remains in the showcases of museums, enshrined in history books, but that has little to do with the present. The painted pallares will continue to be potentially significant, they keep a secret, but we do not have the key to enter the world of their significance, therefore we will always remain outside. Luza’s proposal speaks of that strangeness, that <otherness>. 

Alfonso Castrillón Vizcarra
Art critic