There has been an outpouring of emotions in the world of Dominican arts and letters since news broke about the sudden and not yet explained death of visual artist Tony Capellán (1955-2017). [For an article on reactions to his passing, visit Esendom.]
Not much has been determined regarding the details surrounding the artist’s death. Acento reports that Capellán was found dead at his home on Emilio Prud’Homme Street in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. For several days, his relatives and friends had no idea where the artist was, because they had not heard from him, but had assumed that he was in Manabao, where he owned a property. However, early Thursday morning, his neighbors alerted the police. Capellán had passed away in his home. A An ambulance arrived at the scene and emergency personnel determined that the artist had been dead for several days, and that his death may have been caused by a fall or something similar, but that the verdict would be delivered by the authorities of the Institute of Forensic Pathology.
As several news outlets explain, Tony Capellán was born in Tamboril, in 1955. He studied at the Universidad Autónoma Art School in Santo Domingo and the Art Student League of New York. He was part of the Quintapata Collective [Colectivo Quintapata]. Acento underlines that he constructed his work from fragments and recycled material, embracing painting, installation, and sculpture. “His work provides the framework for an inquisitive political and social reflection, sharp and cutting, like the reality it reveals, and whose axis somehow always revolves around the Caribbean as a space of ebb and flow, a vortex of remains. His pieces deal with the anguish and pain of reality, hunger, poverty, and the exploitation of man in a region endowed with a natural environment (the sea, light, color) that paradoxically evokes the image of paradise.” Acento goes on to say that his works have been widely exhibited locally and internationally, and have obtained important recognitions, including a number of awards for the Eduardo León Jimenes Art Contest: 2nd place for drawing (in 1987 and 1992), 1st place for sculpture (in 1990 and 1996) and 3rd place for painting (in 1994).
El Nacional referred to his death as a profound loss for the art and culture of the Dominican Republic. According to this news source, among the artists closest to Capellán, engraver Belkis Ramírez and painter Jorge Pineda said that there are no words to express the pain caused by this death. Ramírez declared, “When an artist of this caliber dies and with a work such as the one developed by Capellán, the physical departure is a circumstance. There remain the steps and processes in his engaged aesthetics and elaborated with elements that the consumer society considers waste. His work is a message and a commitment.”
According to El Nacional, Minister of Culture Pedro Vergés, who gave a statement last night, expressed his sorrow at Capellán’s sudden death. “He was passionate about the arts, which he cultivated with passion and dedication, becoming a celebrity who was admired and respected by all: his sudden death fills us with deep mourning,” said Vergés.
For more information (in Spanish), see https://acento.com.do/2017/cultura/8522124-hallan-muerto-al-artista-plastico-tony-capellan/ and http://elnacional.com.do/luto-en-la-plastica-se-fue-tony-capellan/