TRANSCENDENCE (early-middle 1989)
"Collazo worked arduously", wrote critic Nilda M. Peraza, "to finish his ultimate series, the Transcendent Series, which illustrates in a profound visual manner his farewell, his passage from the earthly to the spiritual, works completely interlaced with memories, experiences, ruptures, premonitions and dreams, achieved in his pictorial language of profound lyricism and emotional depth. Here, the art of Collazo comes together and offers us a painting intuitively connected by his dramatic sense of life.
Without becoming pessimistic, his visions explore the depths of his spirit and from his silences emerge, in tranquility, a clear sense of triumph before the undoing of death."21
The Transcendent series, composed of the Black Figure and the Yaddo paintings, may be viewed as the final flowering of the Healing Gardens. Shapes remain the primary formal element, but now there is more "empty" space or "air", created by unbroken areas of subdued color and subtle gradations.
Black Figures (early 1989)
In early 1989, the artist's painting transcended to an ethereal and mythic realm, virtually devoid of color and characterized by a single black figure in a cream and neutral space, as in You Pushed Me and Devonian Times. Pérez Ruiz observed:
"Among Collazo's creative variations, exist monochromatic panels in whose nucleuses emerge diffused figures that seem to constitute themselves through a process of molecular assemblage, making us see those beings in the processes of formation, like specters whose motions do not obey the laws of physics. Those personages enter into the scene like irresistible forces that leave in their path a desolating wake. They act in deserted environments where it is almost impossible to delineate the horizon from the sky. The surfaces are marked by irregular textures, similar to isolated blobs, on the support. Those scars accentuate the aridity existing in these conceptions..."22
The Black Figure paintings are the most searching, introspective and psychologically penetrating of the artist's conceptions. In Fata Morgana and New World Rider, the figure seems embarked on a heroic journey in an eternal world of swirling fogs and shrouded horizons. On the other hand, the aptly named Bon Vivant appears to be revelling in earthly pleasure.
Yaddo (middle 1989)
In contrast to the ethereal Black Figures, the works of the Yaddo series express joy in the physicality of nature by means of their subdued forest colors and thick, textured impasto. Perhaps contemplating his own mortality; Collazo, like an awakening dreamer, seems to grasp onto something solid to assure himself of its and of his own reality. Inspired by the woods of the Yaddo art colony, the heavy impasto of these paintings takes the form of stones, earth, leaves, cones and bark. Here, in the summer of 1989, he painted Conspiracy [of 1989], A Walk in the Woods, Concordia Domus, Model of Decorum, Walking Stick, A Bower, The Jokers and the sublime Forest Rendezvous, perhaps his final work. Of this masterpiece, his former dealer, Rosemary C. Erpf, said: "With the painting Forest Rendezvous..., Raphael achieved the control of his own powers as an artist. In this work of great beauty and strength, one realizes a mature work by an artist of our time."23
The Paintings of Raphael Collazo: Note
21 Nilda M. Peraza, The Art of Raphael Collazo: Rupture and Reconciliation, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1994, catalog, Raphael Collazo (1943-1990) Exposición Retrospectiva, Museo de Arte e Historia de San Juan, San Juan, Puerto Rico, December 14, 1994-March 11, 1995, curated by Ernest Acker-Gherardino. Translated from Spanish by Marisol Uzal and Martin Haggland.
22 José Antonio Pérez Ruiz, Reflections about Raphael Collazo's Work, San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 1999, catalog, Profound Domains, Galería Matices, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, December 7, 1999-January 8, 2000, curated by José Antonio Pérez Ruiz. Translated from Spanish by Marisol Uzal and Martin Haggland.
23 Rosemary C. Erpf, manuscript, Raphael Collazo, New York, March 1990, written for the unpublished catalog of the memorial exhibition Healing Garden, Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, New York, March 23-April 14, 1990, curated by Nilda M. Peraza.