Alexander Aramburo Maldonado drew his first picture when he was sixty years old. Born December 17, 1901 in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, Maldonado told his own story: “I had school in Mexico for about two years, so when I came here in 1911, I had to learn English. My father died in 1914, so I had to help and sold newspapers — early in the morning and afternoon (2 cents a paper!) around the time of the Exposition. I also helped the milkman take care of his horse and stuff like that.”
A shipyard worker from the age of sixteen, a professional boxer who never lost a fight, and later a production worker for Western Can, Maldonado never married. From 1950 until his death in 1989 he lived in a little house in Bernal Heights, a working class neighborhood in San Francisco. He lived there with his sister Carmen until her death in 1985.
Maldonado treated contemporary themes — pollution, mass communication, the exploration of space — but there is absolutely nothing banal in his circus-like depiction of these themes, a depiction that owes its uniqueness to a genuinely childlike imagination.
Maldonado was discovered in 1973 by San Francisco public television station KQED. In the next few years he was to rise from total obscurity to international recognition. Maldonado’s work has appeared in more than a dozen books and publications and is represented in numerous private and public collections, including: The National Museum of American Art; The Smithsonian Institution; Washington D.C.; The Museum of American Folk Art in New York, and three museums in the Bay Area. He died on February 10, 1989. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors adjourned in his memory.
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[ In the Press ]