Aníbal Villacís (born 1927, Ambato, Ecuador) is a master painter from Ecuador who used raw earthen materials such as clay and natural pigments to paint on walls and doors throughout his city when he could not afford expensive artist materials. As a teenager, Villacís taught himself drawing and composition by studying and recreating the illustrated ad posters for bullfights in Quito. In 1952, Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra, former President of Ecuador, discovered Villacís and offered him a scholarship to study in Paris.
After living in Paris for almost a year, Villacís never grew accustomed to the language, so he wrote to the Ecuadorian Minister of Education requesting to transfer his studies to Madrid. Villacís felt more comfortable in Spain and lived there for six years. While living in Madrid, Villacís was introduced to the Informalismo or Informalist Movement, specifically, Antoni Tàpies, Antonio Saura, and Modest Cuixart, who quickly began to influence his work. Villacís was a co-founder of VAN (Vanguardia Artística Nacional), the Informalist artist group that embraced Informalism while searching for new modern aesthetics inspired by Pre-Columbian art (also referred to as Ancestralism or The Ancestralists). Other members of VAN included, Enrique Tábara, Estuardo Maldonado, Luis Molinari, Hugo Cifuentes, Leó n Ricaurte and Gilberto Almeida.
Villacís is mostly well known for his series called, Filigranas (Filigree), which he started in the early sixties. The Filigranas series were typically mixed media on masonite, wood or canvas with the addition of any combination of the following applied: marble dust, sand, metal, plaster, paint, gold and/or silver leaf or powder to create new modern aesthetics influenced by his Pre-Columbian ancestors. In Villacís' works made of wood he will laboriously carve into the wood to define Pre-Columbian inspired shapes and abstract symbols. Villacís will often layer many different colors of paint and then scrape some away to reveal the different colors of the layers below, giving the impression of an ancient sacred relic that has aged with time. The addition of silver and gold in Villacís' work is reminiscent of the art of the Baroque period, where the addition of these metals was often used to create a divine or sacred experience.
Villacís' passion for the art and culture of the Pre-Columbian period is obvious in his work. He feels it is the beginning of life in his continent. In Pre-Columbian art there is evidence, through images and forms, of a remote life; an insight into total wisdom and enchantment. A life colored with rituals, habits and incarnated customs, signs and symbols, magic and religion through the myth. The images are constituted by the emotional, sensible perception of vitality; and the forms represent an order of the imagination and thought, governed by a rigorous construction that was built by the creative men of prehistoric times.
For a period in the seventies, Villacís put his famous Filigranas series on hold to focus on painting faces of Quito's ghetto children to highlight their "insecurities, uncertainty, and premature old age". Villacís has also been known to paint landscapes, cityscapes and bullfighting scenes. Villacís has always been intrigued by bullfighting, regularly attending bullfights in both Spain and Ecuador.
Internationally, Villacís has exhibited his work throughout the corners of Latin America: Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Brazil, El Salvador, as well as the United States and Europe.
In 2007, Villacís was awarded Ecuador's most prestigious honor in Art, Literature and Culture, Premio Eugenio Espejo, the National Award presented by the president of Ecuador.