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Pedro Alcántara: plástica combativa [Pedro Alcántara: Combative Visual Arts] is a historical essay by critic and art historian Álvaro Medina on the work of Colombian draftsman and printmaker Pedro Alcántara. Between 1964 and 1977, the author defines six distinct periods on the basis of which to analyze the formal, thematic, and technical changes that took place in Pedro Alcántara’s work, whose scope Medina compares to that of major artists like Rómulo Rozo, Luis Alberto Acuña, Pedro Nel Gómez, Alejandro Obregón, Fernando Botero, and Enrique Grau. Medina places emphasis on the political nature of Alcántara’s art as he makes references to Colombia’s history of violence. In the text, Medina discusses what he considers the achievements and the deficiencies of Alcántara’s work on the level of theme as well as form. In terms of technique, Medina discusses how Alcántara got his start in printmaking and his training with Puerto Rican printmaker Lorenzo Homar. While Medina recognizes a brief moment of crisis in Alcántara’s process, he states that his work has always taken a political stand, which he sums up as “commitment to bear witness to his time and his society, a commitment that he understands to mean moving beyond the surface of events.”
Initially, the article Pedro Alcántara: plástica combativa was written for the supplement to the newspaper Diario del Caribe on the occasion of the retrospective 10 años de obra gráfica de Alcántara (1974) held at the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango in Bogotá. Historian and art critic Álvaro Medina (born 1942) later expanded the article and included it in the chapter “Trayectorias” of his book Procesos del arte en Colombia (1978), a fundamental work in the historiography of Colombian art history.
After spending his teenage years in the United States, Pedro Alcántara (born 1942) studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. He returned to Colombia in 1963. By the time Medina published the book, Alcántara was a well-established draftsman, printmaker, printer, graphic designer, and set designer. On four separate occasions he was awarded the prize for drawing at the Salón de Artistas Nacionales (currently the Salón Nacional de Artistas). The first prize in drawing was awarded on different occasions to the following works by Alcántara: De esta tumba, de estas benditas cenizas no nacerán violetas [From these Tombs, from these Blessed Ashes no Violets will be Born] (1965 edition of the Salón), Testimonio No. 3 [Testimony No. 3] (1966 edition of the Salón), and Retrato de una mujer [Portrait of a Woman] (1971 edition of the Salón).
Augusto Rendón (born 1933) and Pedro Alcántara played a critical role in the rise of drawing and printmaking, especially silkscreen, in Colombia. As Medina mentions, Alcántara met Lorenzo Homar, “the master of all masters” of the silkscreen technique, thanks to an exhibition at Galería El Morro in Puerto Rico. It was through Homar that Alcántara got started in the silkscreen medium. In 1972, an exhibition of Homar’s work was held in Cali, and he gave a workshop at the invitation of the Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia. On the basis of this personal and professional experience, Alcántara became quite skillful at the silkscreen technique and, in 1977, he founded the Taller Serigráfico de la Corporación Prográfica (1977–87). This studio did significant work in the area of printing and served as a model for other projects throughout the country and beyond, in Panama and Cuba, for instance. In its early years, Prográfica printed the portfolios: Graficario de la lucha popular en Colombia (1977), Cuba-Colombia, raíces comunes (1978), and Alcántara evoca a Martí (1979).