Ricardo Viera Will Hug You Close And Help You to See the Glorious and Mundane Wonder of the World Through His Aesthetically Attuned Eyes
As a colleague, friend, “partner in crime” in the “Eat Art Collaborative,” and a long-time co-promoter of the late-great outsider artists Howard Finster and Mr. Imagination (as well as, among others, Purvis Young, Charlie Lucas, Lonnie Holley, Mario Mesa, and Norbert Kox), I am delighted to introduce you to the extraordinary man behind the fine, folk, ethnographic, and outsider artworks and photography being auctioned at Material Culture. I refer to Ricardo Viera who is the recently retired Professor Emeritus at Lehigh University, the founder and Director the Lehigh University Art Galleries, and a force of nature and a dynamic advocate for the arts throughout the Lehigh Valley. But beyond his regional identity as an university professor and gallery director, he is a pioneering figure in the educational mission of museums; a nationally and internationally known expert on Latin American photography; a reviewer and consultant for the worldwide FotoFest exhibitions; active in folk and outsider art circles and a supporter of the “National Art Exhibitions of the Mentally Ill/NAEMI”; a US state department special envoy concerning South American art; and an amazingly versatile consultant about, and curator of, exhibitions throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
There are many other attributes that I could add to this litany of Ricardo’s accomplishments and curiously refreshing talents – qualities such as tirelessly imaginative, inspirational, interdisciplinary, collaborative, and innovative. Of course, he is also a heroic and indiscriminate bestower of wondrously sincere bear-hugs of Latin American greeting and salutation. And there is something else that should be mentioned since it is not so often characteristic of academics so smugly comfortable with their sequestered life, banal privileges, and timid actions. I refer to the simple fact that Ricardo through the years has been audacious, courageous, and truly fearless in his support of the basic proposition that art does not exist to be just “high” or “low,” or only beautiful or simply decorative. It can be that, but more importantly, art of every kind, often like religion, is the expressive handmaiden of the imagination, it exists to challenge all of our taken-for-granted platitudes about reality. Truly art exists to help us see reality’s hidden truth – the conjoined seriousness and dark squeamish humor of all things. And as Voltaire and Oscar Wilde remind us, it helps us to re-imagine and re-create a better and less divisive world. As Ricardo will tell you, the playfully dangerous job of art can be both a lonely and at times frightening undertaking.
Ricardo is, then, not only an educator and international advocate for art and artists, but is himself a multitalented and innovate artist – painter, printmaker, photographer, designer, bonsai horticulturalist, and part-time Cuban-American Pavarotti. He’s also a wickedly accomplished cook of Cuban rice and beans. In many ways, his life has been his greatest artwork. And what you see in this special auction of Ricardo’s creative, curatorial, and collecting life is a special opportunity to share in his expansive artistic vision. He is particularly grateful for those special artists and dear friends who gave him artworks that he has enjoyed and loved for many years – works that he now cathartically passes onto others to cherish. He has, indeed, given all of us a very personal and revealing gift.
Norman Girardot, Bethlehem, PA