Carlos Vilaro, a Uruguayan artist, painter, potter, sculptor, muralist, writer and composer, died today. A true renaissance man, Vilaro’s work is displayed all over the globe from mansions to government buildings to quiet little villages. Vilaro had been close friends with many people, most notably Brigitte Bardot and Pablo Picasso, whom he had met in 1950s Paris. Vilaro’s first marriage was to Madelon Rodriguez Gomez and would produce three children. One of them, Carlos Paez Rodriguez, would play for the “Old Christians” Rugby team. Rodriguez was among the Uruguayan players aboard the air liner that crashed in the Andes that was the basis for the movie “Alive.”
Vilaro was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1923. In 1939 he started drawing and moved to Buenos Aires. He worked in the blue-collar Barracas barrio of the Argentine capital as a printing apprentice before returning to his homeland in the 1940s.
Becoming increasingly well-known, Vilaro was commissioned in 1959 to paint a mural for the tunnel connecting a new annex to the Organization of American States in Washington, DC. The mural originally was meant to be no more than 50 feet in length. When Vilaro put his paint brush down for the last time on that project, the mural came in at over 500 feet long. Unveiled in 1960, extensive damage from rains required a repaint of the mural in 1975.
In 1958, the artist bought a sea-front property on the eastern coast of Uruguay. Settling in a desolate area known as Punta Ballena, Vilaro build a small lodge that eventually grew into “Casapueblo” or “House-Village.” The compound, made of whitewashed concrete looked amazingly similar to Mykonos. The small development became the artists home and museum.
Although Vilaro moved into his “livable sculpture” by 1968, he continued to add-on to the building. If a special guest were expected, Vilaro would simply build another room. After Casapueblo became large enough, he opened it to tourism as a hotel.
Vilaro’s work spans the globe. He painted 12 murals in Argentina, 16 in Brazil, 4 in Chile and Gabon, 11 in the United States and 30 in his native Uruguay. Not confined to painting, Vilaro designed an inter-denominational cemetery in San Isidro, Buenos Aires. At the same time he refashioned an abandoned house in Tigre into a chapel in the style of Casapueblo. Vilaro always considered the San Isidro chapel his “greatest work.”
Carlos Vilaro’s Masterpiece: Casapueblo
From the distance it looks like a snowfall has covered Punta Ballena. With the temperature at 85 degrees and golden sunlight, the visitor’s senses says it must be a mirage.
Approaching Casapueblo, the scene appears as though a wizard has been busy. A cascading cliff side castle with whitewashed walls planted beside what looks like a Martian spaceship, a beached submarine and whipped cream pie all thrown together.
Slipping inside the gates at Casapueblo, Spanish for “house village,” the visitor can roam open-air corridors named after stars and enjoy one of the 72-rooms built personally by the artist. His home and workshop sits next door and the entire labyrinth has several swimming pools and outdoor dining rooms. Every guest room comes with a balcony.
It’s a rare person that will be missed by the world, and Carlos Vilaro is one of those people. Uprisings will continue and governments will rise and fall. Through it all, Vilaro’s paintings and the rest of his artwork will continue to make their corner of the globe just a little bit better.
RIP Carlos Vilaro
By Jerry Nelson