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Antonio Pineda dies at 90; Mexican modernist silversmith

Antonio Pineda dies at 90; Mexican modernist silversmith
Antonio Pineda was among the most prominent of many silversmiths to emerge from the mountain town of Taxco, Mexico, beginning in the 1930s.
Antonio Pineda, the internationally renowned Mexican modernist silversmith who was praised for his bold, striking jewelry designs and ingenious use of gemstones, has died. He was 90.

Pineda died of kidney failure Monday at his ranch home in Taxco, Mexico, said his daughter Veronica Falzone.

A Taxco native, Pineda was among the most prominent of the many silversmiths to emerge from the mountain mining town beginning in the 1930s.

He was the subject of a 2008-09 exhibition at UCLA's Fowler Museum, “Silver Seduction: The Art of Mexican Modernist Antonio Pineda,” which traced the evolution of his work through the 1970s.

"He was certainly one of the major modernist silversmiths in the 1950s, '60s and certainly into the '70s," said Betsy Quick, the Fowler's director of education and the show's in-house curator.

"There was a small cadre of extremely well-known, well-respected and brilliant silversmiths living in Taxco, Mexico, and the rest of those smiths have, at this point, passed away," Quick said. "Antonio really was the last of the great silversmiths of this period."

On display at the Fowler exhibition, which ended in March, were nearly 200 examples of Pineda's silver work, including jewelry, hollowware and tableware.

The show, Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote, "makes a compelling case that the work of" Pineda "represents the art's zenith."

"I completely agree; it's just extraordinary work," Quick said. "The works were individually crafted, individually designed. They made absolutely beautiful use of semiprecious and precious stones. The works that he created were beautifully designed to fit the human body."

In 2007, Quick made a pre-exhibition visit to Taxco to videotape and interview Pineda and other local people about the artist and this period. She was accompanied by Cindy Tietze and Stuart Hodosh of Los Angeles, whose collection of Pineda's works formed the basis of the exhibition.

"He was charming, he was well-traveled, and he had wonderful reflections and recollections of past times," Quick said. "He was very articulate about his work and about the creative process."

One of Pineda's favorite sayings was: "The richness of silver is immortal. It doesn't die."

The third of 10 children, Antonio Pineda Gomez was born in Taxco on July 19, 1919.

At age 11 he had a brief apprenticeship in the Taxco silver jewelry workshop of U.S. designer and entrepreneur William Spratling, who had moved to the area in the late 1920s.

Pineda later apprenticed with Mexico City painter and silversmith Valentin Vidauretta and returned to Taxco in 1936.

He was involved in mining and worked in sales and management at Spratling's workshop before opening his own silver jewelry workshop in 1939. At his peak, Pineda employed nearly 100 other silversmiths.

A major turning point in his career came in 1944 when his work was included in an exhibition at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

Richard Gump, heir to the city's exclusive department store Gump's, purchased the 160 pieces in Pineda's collection and offered to sell his designs exclusively. Other partnerships followed in Mexico, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

Pineda's work grew to include sculpture, and he began exhibiting internationally, including in Chicago, Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam and Mexico City.

Pineda was married and divorced three times. In addition to Falzone, his daughter from his second marriage, he is survived by children Kathleen Pineda, Debra Pineda and Carlos Pineda from his first marriage and by Antonio Pineda Delgado, Antoinetta Pineda Delgado and Ximena Pineda Delgado from his third marriage. He is also survived by brothers Bruno and Raul; sisters Erma and Carolina; and seven grandchildren.

A funeral was held last week in Taxco.

dennis.mclellan@latimes.com
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