Ana Mercedes Hoyos, a Colombian painter and sculptor who lived from September 29, 1942, to September 5, 2014, was a trailblazer of modern art in her native nation. She has received over seventeen prizes of national and worldwide recognition for her artistic works during her fifty years. She started in the Pop Art movement and eventually evolved into abstract art. As she studied light, color, sensuality, and the abundance of her environment, she progressed toward cubism and realism. Her study of Colombian diversity began with her reinterpretations of master painters, and her later works emphasized the role of Afro-Colombian and mestizo heritage in the country’s landscape. Her artwork can be found in the permanent collections of several Latin American cities, including Juan Antonio Roda, the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City, the Ibercaja Collection in Zaragoza, Spain, the Fuji Art Museum in Tokyo, and the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, New York. She gave the National Museum of African American History and Culture of the Smithsonian and United Nations University in Tokyo her collection of archival materials on San Basilio de Palenque.
Full Real Name: Ana Mercedes Hoyos
Date of Birth: September 29, 1942
Age: 71 years (1942-2014)
Place of Birth: Bogotá, Colombia
Profession: Artist (visual arts)
Zodiac Sign: Libra
Education: Academia de Bellas Artes in Rome and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Height (approx.): 5 feet 4 inches (165 cm)
Weight: 121 lbs (55 kg)
Born in Bogotá, Colombia on September 29, 1942, Ana Mercedes Hoyos Mejía was the daughter of Manuel José Hoyos Toro and Ester Mejía Gutiérrez. Hoyos’s father, an architectural engineer, supported her pursuit of an education in art history. She studied at Colegio Marymount in Bogotá for her primary and secondary education, where she also studied painting privately with Luciano Jaramillo. Travels to Europe, Mexico, and the US were used to supplement this official education with knowledge of art from various civilizations. She did not finish her studies in visual arts at the University of the Andes, where she studied under Jaramillo, Juan Antonio Roda, Marta Traba, and Armando Villegas. She wed the architect Jacques Mosseri Hané in 1967, and the two of them traveled to New York City for a month to see Pop Art shows before heading back to Bogotá. Their daughter Ana was born in 1969 as a result.
From 1961 to 1965, Hoyos was a teacher at the University of the Andes, where she started her career. She started showing in 1966 and took home the second prize in the 1967 Young Painter’s Biennial held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bogotá (also known as the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Bogotá). She won first place in the “Environmental Spaces” show at the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art the following year. She created Pop Art pieces in the later part of the 1960s and abstract works in the 1970s, using a minimalist style. These resulted in the development of her debut series, Ventanas (Windows), which are regarded by many as her most significant pieces. The oil paintings were square in shape and modest, with an abstract landscape framed by lines that ran vertically and horizontally. The window served as a lens through which to focus the view on a still moment, usually one of a landscape, and the frame itself symbolized the division between the outside world and the inside world. The framed picture in her later pieces in this series becomes increasingly blurry, making it impossible to tell if the viewer is looking in or out of the window. Hoyos won the Caracas Prize for paintings 1–10 from the Ventanas series in 1971 at the 22nd Salon of National Artists.
By the middle of the 1970s, the window is broken by Hoyos’ series Atmósferas (Atmospheres), in which photographs completely eschew the frame in favor of exploring the unrestricted expanse of light. She investigated the depths of color focused on light by painting in layers of different colors that alternated, each followed by a layer of white. Due to the intense competition in Colombia’s art scene, Hoyos’ 1978 first-place win at the 27th National Salon of Visual Artists, which she eventually made her second home in New York City, caused controversy. The appreciation led to international exposure when she was invited to participate in the Biennale de Paris and in an exhibition, “GeometraSensvel,” with Roberto Pontual and other Latin American artists organized by the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro.
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The next step in Hoyos’ progression was a series of paintings featuring flowers and fruits, in which she concentrated on the sunflower flower head and removed the majority of the petals. She tried to eliminate spatial references so that the attention might be on the flower itself by examining the sensuality of the earth’s abundance solely through the circular forms. She proceeded to create a sequence of still lifes that reverted to a photograph frame like a window from these photos. Her shape became oblong, as though the fruit were a landscape in and of itself, using fruits that are typical of those found on Cartagena’s beaches. She used plantain forms counterbalanced by watermelon to encircle either fruit slices or the abundance present in a fruit vendor’s stall to achieve symmetry.
These still-life paintings, which honor historical master artists like Caravaggio, Cézanne, Jawlensky, Lichtenstein, Van Gogh, and Zurbarán, evolved into an investigation of art history between 1984 and 1987. After studying history, Hoyos reworked several of their works to incorporate her interpretation of legendary or magical experiences from her ethnic background into the European culture. She first came to the notice of North American viewers in 1988 when she was included in an interview with artists dubbed “new teachers” in Newsweek.
Hoyos changed from appreciating the beauty of the lush bounty to appreciating the cultural contributions and multicultural diversity of the people who filled Colombia through her still lives. This helped her to get an understanding of Afro-Colombian history. She started studying the concepts of freedom and slavery to comprehend how those historical occurrences influenced and transformed Colombia. She started recording the history of San Basilio de Palenque with pictures and interviews, gathering firsthand accounts from locals about their games, stories, and herbal knowledge. Her investigation into Colombia’s past inspired her to create the Afro-Colombian community-focused series of works for which she is most known and has received widespread attention. The Caribbean coastal communities and plants were depicted in the paintings through the use of exaggerated light and details combined with tropical motifs and colors.
Hoyos received an invitation to take part in an artist cultural exchange program in 1992 from the Japan Foundation. Works from her Palenque collection were shown at the Yoshii Gallery in New York City the following year. She was asked to attend the 2000 White House conference on “Culture and Diplomacy” by President Bill Clinton. She received a master’s degree in visual arts with honors, Honoris Causa, from the University of Antioquia in Medellín in the same year. A touring retrospective of Hoyos’s work traveled around Mexico from November 2004 to March 2005, then that summer it moved on to Colombia. The exhibition featured pieces from her 36-year career, including tributes, still lifes, Atmósferas, Ventanas, and Colombian negritude. The artist’s evolution and her explosive use of color and rhythm are demonstrated through a chronological display of several styles, including abstract, Pop Art, and realism. Her modern aesthetic captured the artistic trends of the day as well as her visual commentary on Latin American history through her portrayals of the mixed cultures of Afro-Latinos and Mestizos.
Rarely seen sculptures by Hoyos were on display in the Nueveochenta Gallery’s February 2014 exhibition, Tres D (3-D). Over her career, she created three-dimensional pieces that mirrored and complemented the topics she explored in her paintings. Hoyos arranged for her collection of palenqueros-related artifacts to be donated to the United Nations University in Tokyo, with a smaller portion going to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which houses the Smithsonian’s collection of African-American history, shortly before she passed away in July 2014.
Death and legacy
On September 5, 2014, in Bogotá, Hoyos passed away following a brief hospital stay. She received more than 17 national and international honors during her life as a tribute to her achievements. Her artwork can be found in the permanent collections of several museums across Latin America, including the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá, the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City, the Ibercaja Collection in Zaragoza, Spain, and the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor, New York.
The Google Doodle honoring Hoyos was created on December 17, 2022, as a way to honor her life and contributions.