Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail

In this retrospective article on Colombian art in the 1980s, critic José Hernán Aguilar condemns the unexpected turn that took place on the local art scene when Conceptualism gave way to “the artistic and ideological pluralism” prevalent in art internationally at that time. Thus, Colombian art became “a battleground of styles.” In Aguilar’s view, Colombian art in comparison with other art scenes of the eighties was “intelligent and committed”; in the seventies, he asserts, it was riddled with contextual and subjective concerns. Aguilar describes Colombian art from the eighties as the “materialization of a neo-subjectivist tendency” inspired by contemporary movements like German neo-Expressionism, North American Bad Painting, and the Italian transavantgarde. Aguilar further characterizes this art as “postmodern neo-romanticism, where the artist engages culture rather than nature.”


In “Símbolos de cambio: ¿Qué pasó con el arte en esta década de los ochenta?” [Symbols of Change: What Happened to Art in the Eighties?], critic José Hernán Aguilar Cruz (born 1952) provides a succinct explanation of his vision of Colombian art from the eighties, the period when he was an active art critic; this article is crucial to understanding Aguilar’s critical discourse as a whole. It also provides an interesting perspective on artistic practices of the period, and the poetic and generational tensions that it entailed.  


The article was published in the art section of the daily El Tiempo. Beside it was published an article entitled “Dimensión metafórica: Hubo pluralidad de lenguajes y estilos” [Metaphorical Dimension: Plurality of Languages and Styles Existed], in which critic and curator Carolina Ponce de León (born 1957) provides her vision of the eighties. By virtue of contrast, these two articles offer a complex overview of Colombian art of that decade.  



After studying art history and photography abroad, Aguilar returned to Colombia in 1980. He taught art history at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and published criticism in magazines like La Revista de Arte y Cultura and Arte en Colombia Internacional.  


During the eighties, Aguilar contributed greatly to Colombian art as a critic and, later, as a curator. His most significant contribution may well have been the column that he published from 1988 to 1992 in the newspaper El Tiempo. On occasion, Carolina Ponce de León, Beatriz González (born 1938), Eduardo Serrano (born 1939), and others also wrote for that newspaper. During this period, Aguilar was central to disseminating Postmodern discourses on art in the Colombian context. Thanks to his education, he had a firm grasp of important conceptual frameworks and, as such, exercised great influence on the Colombian art scene.

Taller Historia Crítica del Arte (UN): Sylvia Suárez
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of José Hernan Aguilar, Bogotá, Colombia.
Courtesy of Casa Editorial El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia