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    La década prodigiosa / Luis Ángel Duque
    Los 80 : Panorama de las artes visuales en Venezuela. -- Caracas, Venezuela : Galería de Arte Nacional, Fundación Banco Mercantil, 1990
    p. 34-48 : ill.
    Book/pamphlet article – Essays
    Duque, Luis Ángel. "La década prodigiosa." In Los 80 : Panorama de las artes visuales en Venezuela, 34-48. Exh. cat., Caracas, Venezuela: Galería de Arte Nacional, Fundación Banco Mercantil, 1990.

[This text is] an essay by critic Luis Ángel Duque for the exhibition catalogue Los Ochenta. Panorama de las artes visuales en Venezuela [The Eighties: Panorama of the Visual Arts in Venezuela] (Caracas: Galería de Arte Nacional, 1990). Divided into five parts, Duque attempts to group a large number of artists according to styles and techniques that exemplify the decade: (1) the predominance of painting as a medium; (2) the strengthening of free forms within three-dimensional art; (3) original books created by artists; (4) the return of the “traveling painters” who produced vigorous accounts of our nation; (5) predominance of mature artists within their fields. Duque also offers definitions of the new forms of expression that arose in the 1980s: “installations” and “video-art.” He also points out the North American and European movements and artists that have influenced works produced in Venezuela, and that permit the establishment of certain analogies.


The book Los Ochenta: Panorama de las artes visuales en Venezuela [The 1980s: Panorama of the Visual Arts in Venezuela] (Caracas: GAN, 1990) was published for the eponymous exhibition that took place at the Galería de Arte Nacional in December 1990. It contains four essays: the first “La década impensable” [The Inconceivable Decade], by Luis Enrique Pérez Oramas refers to Western art of the 1980s in an ample and humanistic manner, but only tangentially touches on the arts in Venezuela. The second is the present essay. The third is by Mariana Figarella, “Los ochenta. Panorama de una década” [The Eighties: Panorama of a Decade], and the fourth, “Sobre la crítica de arte en Venezuela” [On Art Criticism in Venezuela] is by Juan Carlos Palanzuela. The book contains a chronology of the 1980s.


Within Venezuelan art history, the essay by Luis Ángel Duque is important because it offers exhaustive information on the dominant trends and styles of this era, and a register of emerging and established artists in that decade. As a text, Duque’s essay is of informational and didactic value. Nevertheless, it is superficial from the analytical and critical point of view; the historian attempts to provide a panorama of art in Venezuela during the 1980s, also demonstrating his knowledge of contemporary North American and European art. This information is of great interest, and validates in certain cases the understanding of the great resonance that the idea of “transvanguardia” [transavantgarde] (Achille Bonito Oliva) had in the resurgence of painting—due to the interests of the time, mercantile above all—to the point of becoming the genre that identified the decade. Nevertheless, the comparisons proposed for each Venezuelan artist and their foreign [counterparts] are disproportionate. They communicate the idea of scarce originality in Venezuelan art, and they all follow other movements or were influenced by some foreign artists.


Both the book and the exhibition were the objects of controversy. There were various press articles; among others, that of art historian and columnist Juan Carlos Palenzuela as well as that of artist Carlos Zerpa (see “80: Una versión disparatada” [80: A Ludicrous Version] in the ICAA digital archive doc. no. 1051973); and the interviews conducted with cultural personalities. All of these were concerned with identifying the degree of dependency or proclivity to copy—that inability to be original or to become part of an involuntary response to an era.

María Elena Huizi
Fundación Mercantil, Caracas, Venezuela
Reproduced with permission of Luis Ángel Duque, Baruta, Venezuela
Biblioteca Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas, Plaza de Los Museos, Parque los Caobos, Caracas 1010, República Bolivariana de Venezuela