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This essay by Roberto Guevara was published in the catalogue for Re-presentaciones: foto-grafías y acupinturas (Caracas: Fundación Eugenio Mendoza, 1981), the exhibition of works by the Venezuelan geographer and conceptual artist Claudio Perna. Guevara refers to the phrase “cemento y lágrimas” (cement and tears), a quote from the Brazilian singer-songwriter Chico Buarque de Holanda, to describe how Venezuela’s capital city has changed over the course of the last half century. Guevara then goes on to review Perna’s work, seeing it as a passionate story about the holocaust that has been unleashed on the city. He explains that the artist’s works—based on photocopies, Polaroids, and conceptual events—create an “aesthetic of marginalization” vis-à-vis the city’s social reality. Guevara concludes that Perna “is now in full command of his mature, unfettered talent, and is a fine example of creative dignity.”
Roberto Guevara (1932–98) was the Venezuelan reviewer and critic who most regularly and exhaustively reported on the country’s visual arts scene during the second half of the twentieth century, especially in his newspaper columns. One of the interesting aspects of this essay—which was published in the catalogue for Re-presentaciones: foto-grafías y acupinturas (Caracas: Fundación Eugenio Mendoza, 1981), the exhibition of works by the Venezuelan conceptual artist Claudio Perna (1938–97)—is that it refers to the artist’s treatment of a very specific problem: the urban chaos in Venezuela’s capital city. But the most important feature in the essay is the connection that Guevara makes between the artist’s passionate dedication to his inquiry into the problems plaguing his city and the simplicity of the media he uses to illustrate them. Guevara refers to them as an “aesthetic of marginalization,” in which they are imbued with the “potential for renewal.” Other critics in Venezuela have mentioned and discussed Guevara’s description of Perna’s media and his way of using them. According to Guevara, Perna (perhaps to a greater extent than any other artist) sees photography as a simple, almost rustic medium that can be used “to trap the mythology of the moment,” meaning that when he captures a fleeting image it also becomes a metaphor. Also of great interest is Guevara’s observation that Perna’s simplification of media is closely related to his autonomy as an artist, to “that freedom that begins as a human being’s way of life, a break with ties, a rejection of social mirages.”
Despite the importance of this essay, it is somewhat uneven as regards the axiology of its contents. On the one hand its values contribute the above-mentioned lucid observations about Perna’s work, as Guevara’s critical work tends to do. But, on the other hand, Guevara’s exaggerated praise almost makes this conceptual artist seem to be a fictional character; Guevara elevates the image of the man and the artist to near-heroic heights, using over-the-top descriptions such as “passionate narrator of the holocaust,” and “a guerrilla in the dramatic struggle to safeguard the world’s significance,” and other similar phrases.
For other articles about the artist Claudio Perna, see by Margarita D’Amico “1: Hoy es arte lo que no era” [doc. no. 1068360]; by Luis Pérez-Oramas “El autocurrículum de Claudio Perna, escultura social y novela hiperrealista” [doc. no. 1161917]; and by Elsa Flores “Sin título. [Vivir quiere decir dejar huellas…]” [doc. no. 1063156].