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The Art of JAMA
October 23/30, 2013

UntitledGonzalo Fonseca

JAMA. 2013;310(16):1652-1653. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.5379

The Uruguayan artist Gonzalo Fonseca (1922-1997) took inspiration from cities of the distant past. He studied ancient civilizations, visited archaeological sites, and once assisted at an excavation in Syria. He collected motifs from the ruins of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Pre-Columbian America and combined them to create quasiauthentic compositions in pen and ink, cast concrete, and stone. Judging from the way he composed images, he considered heritage sites to be troves of timeless artifacts whose designs could be repurposed as art. Fonseca’s Untitled drawing of 1977 is a work of imagination in this vein. The view takes in several structures of a ruined city, but the time frame is ambiguous. Some of the structures are decomposing, some are unfinished, and some are still in the planning stage. Tiny figures gather at the corner of a platform in the foreground. From an aperture in the platform, a ladder leads down to a kiva, an underground room used for ceremonies by indigenous people of the North American Southwest. Near the bottom of the picture, a hunched figure rakes a pit and to the left of this figure is a ghostly tower. Overall, the drawing looks like a page from an architect’s sketchbook, with the past, present, and future all making appearances in the scene.

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