Elizam Escobar (b. 1948) is one of the finest of Puerto Rican painters.
His very autobiographical art is based on the symbolic with elements of magical realism from a conceptual-existential aspect.
Born- May 24, 1948 in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Escobar studied Fine Arts at the University of Puerto Rico (1973). He also studied undergraduate courses at the City University of New York, the Museo del Barrio, and the Art Students League of New York. He taught art in public schools, was a painter with the Hispanic Arts Association, and served as a professor at the Museo del Barrio’s School of Arts before being arrested in 1980 and accused of seditious conspiracy for being a member of a clandestine movement dedicated to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence.
Elizam Escobar continued painting while in prison and his work has been featured in world renowned art magazines and publications such as Art in America (1994), and The New York Times’ “Art in Review” (written by Holland Cotter).
In 1997, Elizam represented Puerto Rico as part of the Itinerant exhibition organized by the UNESCO “Iberoamerica Pinta” , the exhibition traveled for three years throughout Latin America and other cities such as Paris, Jerusalem and Miami.
Escobar is not only a painter, he is a multi-faceted creator-artist, who is also a poet, teacher, and art-theorist. His book The Essays of the Artificer: Beyond Post Modernism and the Political-Direct won the Pen Club first prize for best creative essay in 1999 and his art essays have been added to prestigious universities and museums archives and published internationally in important art journals such as Left Curve, Whitewalls, and Third Text.
In 2013, Escobar also received the award for “Best Retrospective Exhibition” by the International Association of Art Critics. And in 2016, La Campechada, the most important art celebration in honor of José Campeche, a Puerto Rican painter of the 18th century who is considered one of the most important painters in las Americas, was dedicated to Escobar.
Elizam Escobar was sentenced in 1980 to 68 years in prison by the government of the United States on charges of seditious conspiracy, as a member of a movement in favor of the independence of Puerto Rico. Escobar continued to paint and write while serving his prison sentence.
While held at FCI Oxford, Wisconsin, supporters mounted an exhibition titled Art as an Act of Liberation. Lucy Lippard, recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship award, and one of the most important art critics in the United States wrote an essay for the exhibition catalog. Due to the exhibition's attention, the Bureau of Prisons transferred him from Wisconsin to FCI El Reno, Oklahoma, where he was not allowed to paint for a year.
On September 1999, Escobar and the ten other Puerto Rican political prisoners were released from prison after President Clinton commuted their disproportionate sentences. After nearly 20 years in prison, Escobar returned to Puerto Rico.
Since his return to Puerto Rico Escobar has been a professor in Puerto Rico’s only university-level art school, the Escuela de Artes Plásticas.
In addition to painting, he also works with mixed media, a complex combination of materials, techniques, and other mediums he uses as formal elements to create images and characters. In Elizam's art you will see an intrinsic intimate relation between his poetry, his essays, and thinking. His very autobiographical art is based on the symbolic with elements of magical realism from a conceptual-existential aspect.
His works are in private and public collections including those of the Museo del Barrio in New York, the Casa Amarilla in Caracas, the Taller Puertorriqueño in Philadelphia, the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, the University of Puerto Rico Museum of History, Anthropology, and Art, the Cooperativa de Servicios Multiples, and the Museo de Lares. His work has been exhibited in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, San Juan, Toronto, Anchorage, Edinburgh, Madrid, Havana, Managua and other Latin American cities.
Lucy Lippard one of the most important art critics in the United States and wrote an essay for an exhibition catalog of Elizam. Lippard was among the first writers to recognize the "dematerialization" at work in conceptual art. Lippard holds nine honorary doctorates of fine arts and is recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship award.