Adolfo Riestra, a superb sculptor and painter, lived and worked in Ajijic from about 1971 to 1976. For most of this time, he occupied the former home (Constitución #32) of German artist Peter Huf and his wife Eunice Hunt. Riestra and his partner, Wendy Jones, had 2 young children at the time.
Riestra was born in Tepic, Nayarit in 1944. He died in Mexico City on 10 October 1989, just one day after a major exhibition of his work opened at Galeria OMR.
Riestra studied painting in Guadalajara under “Dwite” (Dwight?) Albisson from 1955 to 1956, and then took a law degree at the Universidad de Guanajuato (1962-66) where he also attended the Taller de Jesús Gallardo.
In November 1969 he held a solo show of 26 paintings at the Teatro Experimental de Jalisco in Guadalajara. The following year (1970) he worked with John Hamilton in the Potrero Hill Graphics Workshop in San Francisco, California.
In 1972, Riestra exhibited in a show with Adolfo Luis Cuevas. Riestra’s work was strongly influenced by political events and the 1968 Mexico City student massacre. Riestra’s paintings include two entitled “Retrato de Alan Bowers.”
In April 1976 he held a one-person show at the Teatro Degollado in Guadalajara.
Photographer Toni Beatty and her husband Larry Walsh were good friends with Riestra in Ajijic and Beatty credits Riestra with opening her eyes to the possibilities offered by abstract art.
After about six years in Ajijic, Riestra and his family moved to the village of Tepoztlán in the state of Morelos in 1976. Riestra later lived in Mexico City, in France and in Huecorio (on Lake Pátzcuaro).
After Ajijic, his work increasingly focused on modern interpretations of ancient sculptures. These works clearly show the strong influences of archaeological and folk art from several parts of Mexico including Metepec, Colima and his native Nayarit.
Riestra’s work was widely featured in group shows during his lifetime, including national exhibitions of painting and sculpture organized by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes in Mexico City (1977, 1979, 1980) and international exhibitions in Cuba, Belgium and the United States. Group shows after his death featuring his works include the Museo Regional de Nayarit in Tepic (1999); the Art Museum in Tucson, Arizona (2000); the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City (2000, 2001); in Hannover, Germany (2000); Museo Universitario de Ciencia y Arte in Mexico City (2002); MARCO (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey) (2003); and in the five artist show “Mexicanidad: Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Francisco Toledo, Adolfo Riestra” held in Kunsthalle Würth, in Baden Württemberg, Germany, in 2012.
Solo shows of Riestra’s paintings, drawings and sculpture include several at Galería OMR (owned by Riestra’s brother) in Mexico City (1987, 1988, 1991, 1994, 2004, 2009); as well as at the Galería Sloan Racotta (1982) and Galería Florencia Riestra (1989), both in Mexico City; Wenger Gallery in Los Angeles, California (1991); MARCO (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey) (1998); Universidad de Guanajuato (2000); Universidad de las Américas in Puebla (2003); and the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Emilia Ortiz, in Tepic, Nayarit (2011).
Riestra died in Mexico City on 10 October 1989 at the tragically young age of 45. Writing for a retrospective exhibition of Riesta’s works many years later, Dr. Edward Sullivan described Riestra’s untimely passing as robbing Mexico and indeed the world of a complex, multifaceted artist.
Works by Adolfo Riestra can be found in the collections of several major museums, including Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City, MARCO (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The state of Nayarit’s annual prize for contemporary sculpture is named in his honor.
Adolfo Riestra’s daughter, Melissa Riestra, is a social activist in Mexico City. Adolfo’s first cousin, Nicolás Echeverria, is an award-winning musician and documentary film maker who has specialized in documenting indigenous peoples. His works include three films about the Huichol and Cora, as well as Cabeza de Vaca (1991), Vivir mata (2001), and Eco de la montaña (2014).
This is an updated version of a post originally published on 22 March 2012.
I am grateful to Alan Bowers, Toni Beatty, Paul Huf and the late Tom Faloon for sharing their personal memories of Adolfo Riestra with me.
- Cien45. 2017. 100 años. 45 artistas en Nayarit. Tepic: Fundación Álica de Nayarit, A.C.
- Germaine Gómez Haro. 2008. “Adolfo Riestra: arcaísmo y modernidad“, La Jornada semanal, 13 de abril de 2008, núm. 684.
- El Informador. Exposición pictórica. El Informador (Guadalajara) 8 November 1969, p1.
- Edward J. Sullivan. 1998. Adolfo Riestra, Dibujante, pintor y escultor. Catalogue of 1998 exhibition at MARCO (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Monterrey). 156 pp.
- Tomás Pérez González. 2014. “Las Aristas del Gesto” de Adolfo Riestra [many photos of Riestra’s work]
Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).