Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

This essay by the critic and curator Roberto Guevara appeared in the catalogue for the exhibition 10 pintores venezolanos de la nueva figuración. In his opinion, figuration has gone down the same cyclical and unstable path as all the other contemporary approaches that reflect this century of ideological turmoil. Throughout all the movements that flourished early in the century?Impressionists, Fauvists, Surrealists, and later individualistic models (Sutherland, Magritte, Bacon, and others)?the image has been at the service of a succession of symbols and functions and has therefore changed. According to Guevara, new figuration predates and extends certain aspects of Pop Art as a reflection of life in which the mass communication powers of the image are, to some extent, reclaimed. Artists in Venezuela never gave up on figuration. New figuration therefore got involved in protest art and satire, so that the incorporation of new expressive mechanisms (in the figure) called for the support of a “critical humanism” that explores and confronts the problems of mankind and society.       

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The Venezuelan critic, curator, and cultural agent Roberto Guevara (1932–98) wrote this essay as the introduction to the catalogue for the exhibition 10 pintores venezolanos de la nueva figuración presented at the Sala Mendoza, Caracas, in 1968. New figuration had been around since about 1956, but this exhibition was a landmark event in the movement’s history because it showcased and defined the conceptual affinities shared by a group of ten Venezuelan artists who, despite their generational, formal, and career differences, came to be known for their innovative treatment of the figure. That distinguished them from other movements that were also in vogue at the time, including informalism (with which they shared formal characteristics at one stage) and Kinetic Art. The artists at the exhibition were: Mario Abreu, Jacobo Borges, José Antonio Dávila, Manuel Espinoza, Luis Guevara Moreno, Antonio Moya, Roberto Obregón, Alirio Palacios, Alirio Rodríguez, and Régulo Pérez. In his essay, Guevara describes the conceptual and inspirational roots of new figuration, which he sees as a new version of Pop Art in terms of how it magnifies the power of the image. In Venezuela, however, this movement adopts a “desire to protest” and a “critical conscience” as a way to confront reality and develop a new humanism. Guevara acknowledges that these traits of Venezuelan new figuration may be the only common elements these artists share, because their (formal) expressions are very different.      

Researcher
Josefina Manrique
Team
Fundación Mercantil, Caracas, Venezuela
Credit
Roberto Guevara, 1968
Location
CINAP. Centro de Informacion Nacional de Artes Plásticas. Galería de Arte Nacional, Plaza Los Museos, Los Caobos, Caracas.