[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] The original title of this obituary article assessing the artwork of José Ignacio Morales “El Artístico” is “¿Cuál fue, realmente, la obra de José Ignacio Morales (El Artístico)?” Here, José Rafael Sosa (Acento) reviews the late sculptor’s body of work. Here are translated excerpts:
The great fortune of artists is that they never completely die, because their work keeps them alive in the collective memory. Constantin Virgil Gheorghiu—the Hungarian writer [sic, Romanian writer] who was so unjustly denied the Nobel Prize—in his pivotal novel The 25th Hour, established an inexorable truth, “Every death reduces us all. Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”
However, some deaths, especially those of artists, mark us in a particular way. All deaths hurt. All of them. But some deaths resonate closer to us through the force of their works, a reality that will keep them fresh in our memory.
The work of José Ignacio Morales now remains, infinite and present in the streets, in hotels, on municipal walks, and in private residences, an expression of a labor of dedication to art and the most vulnerable social sectors, favored by his methodology of training/production, despite the fact that his remains were buried yesterday in the cemetery on Romana-Higueral Road. [. . .]
El Artístico was the sum of all the best human attitudes: service, generosity, and creative systems of the highest aesthetic and social utility.
His main contribution was his attitude of love for the development of youth in vulnerable social conditions, enabling them to work. Morales, as an established businessman, always had his financial situation resolved by the continuous demand of his works, but it was not enough. He wanted to help, and for this, he prepared himself, setting up the El Artístico Foundation, which promoted technical and artistic training projects in La Romana, and which was attended by youth from all parts of the country. His training/production model was incorporated in several countries as a model for low-income youth.
When in 2007, the Dominican Association of Tourism Press (ADOMPRETUR) nationalized the Tourism Journalism Award (until then, a regional prize in Puerto Plata) we contacted José Ignacio to request an estimate for the trophy, designed by architect Rafael Bueno.
“I believe in tourism. I will make the trophy for free,” was his response when asked to create the trophy in bronze. This kept happening since 2007, when he brought the first ten trophies in his car from La Romana to the Hotel El Embajador, handing over to us, 30 minutes before starting the PEL Award Gala ceremony, the first 10 trophies of that memorable ceremony, sponsored by Occidental Hotels and the Ministry of Tourism. [. . .]
Morales had his first major work project in 1976, commissioned by Italian designer Roberto Coppa, to collaborate in the creation of Altos de Chavón, a task that gave him increasing prestige, so much so as to be hired by Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Oscar de la Renta, Julio Iglesias, Dominic Bluhdorn, Ariela Storniolo, Danilo and Tony Claro, the Menéndez family, Haward Parnes, the Azqueta Fanjuls, Lima, Arteaga, Morales, Bren Simón, and Mica Stergun, as well as many of the national and international hotel chains: Casa de Campo, Altos de Chavón, Riú Hotels, Hotel Hodelpa, Hotel LTI, and Hotel Dominicus, among others.
His works are still located at the entrances, parks and avenues of many towns. When the Seybo Cross [La Cruz del Seybo] was stolen, El Artístico donated a huge cross forged in iron, which today is a tourist attraction of the community, along with the local mabí and Tula sweets.
One of his most public works, the Sculptural Clock of the 27 de Febrero Avenue, inaugurated on March 29, 1999, is 30 meters high and weighs approximately 50 tons, in steel, bronze, and copper, and today, lies in a disgraceful state due to an irresponsible lack of maintenance. Here is a pending task to honor his name and his work.
Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For original article (in Spanish), see https://acento.com.do/2020/cultura/8805897-cual-fue-realmente-la-obra-de-jose-ignacio-morales-el-artistico