Now Presenting: The Most Serious Thing in Life

By Claudio Isaac

Women dancing in immense ballrooms; sailors in an improbable musical; musicians who carouse rather than suffer the adversities of their trade; young men of innocent beauty; young women of natural lasciviousness; beloved objects; furniture, plants, trees, the embracing landscape and the ever-present fauna: irreverent ducks, loquacious hens, roosters strutting proudly but not excessively so; dogs scattered here and there. Always the dogs: noble and sleepy, in control of the situation, of any situation. Dogs who are eye-witnesses, companions, complements to human life, pharaohs in their realm of overstuffed beds and imperial thrones. Dogs who come and go; dogs who stay or leave but never cease to be the measure of our passage through the world. They are all scenes of joy, plain and simple, lighthearted and carefree, full of charm and self-confidence: joie de vivre in its purest form. These elements—with all their substance and significance—are the essence of Abelardo Favela’s painting.

A vital, congenial atmosphere emanates from every piece. There is neither turmoil nor distress here, nor any terrible hidden messages. Not even the slight melancholy of Gauguin’s coastal beings. Here, there is no room for intermediate sensations. Like his palette of colors—primary colors without blending or shades or transparencies—Favela’s canvases pay tribute to that fresh outlook which helps us reconcile ourselves with our existence. It is his vision, and he transmits it with contagious delight.

Of course, I stand behind the greatness of Francis Bacon and José Luis Cuevas and their dark creations: they express our painful existence in a way few can. But at a time when all seems dark and permeated by a sense of calamity, when angst and bitterness are the artist’s major currency, it is such a treat to come across this undeniable affirmation of all that is good and pleasurable in life. A world of amusement, without grievance, drawn with obvious spontaneity. To open the door to happiness—true happiness—is not an easy proposition for any painter. It is a rare gift.

But make no mistake. The colors may be primary, the discourse basic and the outlook fresh—in fact, these paintings come close to re-creating the innocence of the idyll, the pastoral poem or the still unsullied Garden of Eden. But Abelardo Favela is no innocent, although an initial revision of his thematic and formal approach might suggest he is. I have mentioned that Favela’s work has no hidden messages. However, there is a discourse that can be read between the lines. It is captivating how he shows us his inner convictions in such an indirect form: mischievous, playful and even naughty. There is a kind of benign subversiveness to it all. To my mind, this constitutes a subtle wink at his more educated observers. When we evaluate the paintings, one by one or as a group, we discover a true idiosyncrasy and a unique, very personal character. This painter detests complexity and that is what defines his work, from the composition to the thematic content: the circumstances of the characters, both animal and human, the women and their surroundings, their figures.... I have to agree with Favela’s contention that appearances are not deceptive. Life is more transparent that one would suppose, and happiness is closer at hand than people tend to believe.

I can’t recall any more timeless visual discourse than this one. Recall what Gustave Flaubert said more than a century and a half ago: Someday, men will learn that the most serious thing in their lives is pleasure.

Abelardo Favela is a man of natural wisdom, and with no need to cite Flaubert, he proceeds in that same spirit and communicates his wisdom to us with great passion.