MIGUEL ARROYO CASTILLO (1920 - 2004)
The 1950s in Venezuela was characterized by material progress and renewal. The architecture and furniture of simple geometric lines showed the lifestyle of a country that went from rural to urban. Lampolux, Decodibo, the Hatch Gallery and Capuy were the shop and galleries that introduced modern furniture in Venezuela. The first to assume the design of modern furniture in these lands was Miguel Arroyo, remembered for his management as director of the Museum of Fine Arts, as well as for his career in ceramics, research and teaching of the arts.
Miguel Gerónimo Arroyo Castillo was born in Venezuela on August 28, 1920 and died on November 3, 2004. He was a ceramist, professor, curator, museographer, writer, critic, historian, furniture maker and interior designer as well as a promoter of the arts and their conservation. He pioneered furniture design in Venezuela
From a young age it was clear in which direction Arroyo’s career path would lead. In 1939 he traveled to the United States, as an assistant to the painter Luis Alfredo López Méndez, who was commissioned to make the murals for the Venezuelan Pavilion at the New York World's Fair, whose thematic axis was "the future". Later, in 1946, Arroyo was awarded a scholarship from the National Ministry of Education to study at the Carnegie Institute Technology in Pittsburgh, where he approached the applied arts.
In 1949, the Gato store, a pioneer in marketing ornamental and "design" objects, opened. The store was in a house on Los Jabillos Avenue in Sabana Grande. Arroyo produced ceramics, enamels and modern furniture for the new enterprise. In the 1950s he joined the avant-garde group The Dissidents, within which he manifested his ideas around the role of design in Venezuelan society. For Arroyo, abstractionists cared "for architecture, industrial design, crafts, and imagine a state of integration of the arts according to which they are present not only in the large mural or in the polychrome of buildings, but also in the design and selection of materials and color of objects as common as a saucepan can be."
Modern architecture boomed in Caracas of the Fifties, the City University was designed by Carlos Raúl Villanueva and the Urbanization Bello Monte promoted by Inocente Palacios, was commissioned. However, there were few modern furniture firms conceived in the country.
In Latin America, the modernist aesthetic of furniture was expressed by the introduction of local elements such as, cultural identity, environmental conditions and in the rescue of artisanal traditions. The result was usually the contrast between the new and the old.
In an article written for Magazine A in 1954, entitled: Modern Furniture for a Colonial House, Arroyo testified to his creative process for the furnishing of Alfredo Boulton's beach house in Pampatar, New Sparta state.
By accepting the commission, Arroyo undertook an investigation into colonial furniture in Mexico, which began with the careful observation of specimens exhibited in the Quinta de Anauco. He concluded that the main characteristics of colonial furniture were sobriety, material (wood), preference for the use of curved lines and craftsmanship. This information was the basis for designing the dining set, a wardrobe, the seating and the rooms, which formally exhibit an authentic integration of colonial aesthetics with the modernist language. Several of these objects were in the exhibition Interior Modern, mounted in the Sala Trasnocho Arte Contacto in 2005.
Between 1950 and 1959 Miguel Arroyo designed more than one hundred pieces furniture, both for individual projects and for companies. He mostly worked with native woods, and often in collaboration with the cabinetmaker of Canary origin Pedro Santana. The woods were used according to their texture, hardness and color, and sometimes combined with other materials such as metal, marble and formica.
At an aesthetic level there were also opportunities in which Arroyo's furniture evoked the visual rhythm of geometric abstraction, as in the case of the table he created for the Mendoza family with the concept "empty-full".
After the sixties Arroyo moved away from furniture design, without neglecting his passion altogether. He acted as an advisor to different cultural projects and as a researcher until his death in 2004, as well as being called to participated in a team of advisors to the La Estancia Art Center, the first national institution conceived in order to promote design and photography in the mid-1990s.
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