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In this article, Marta Traba provides a critical analysis of the different stages of Luis Caballero’s career from the time he was awarded first prize at the Primera Bienal de Coltejer (held in Medellín in 1968) until 1980. Traba begins by discussing artists that influenced Caballero, among them British artist Allen Jones and, especially, Irish artist Francis Bacon. She compares the works of Caballero and Bacon, as well as their distinct cultures (Latin American and Anglo-Saxon respectively). Transcendence and symbolic language are fundamental to Caballero’s work, Traba argues, whereas Bacon’s production is more secular and nihilistic. Traba believes that Caballero (who resided in Paris) had benefited from the wealth of the Latin American and Anglo-Saxon cultures. A main concern of the first stage of Caballero’s work, which Traba dates from 1967 to 1972, is the problem of combat and agony in the love relationship in the midst of uncertainty. Traba emphasizes the fact that Caballero opts for painting, putting stock in its communicative power in a context when both painting and communication seemed to be waning. The second stage, which Traba dates from the mid- to the late seventies, is characterized by metaphorical language and emphasis on death and pleasure. The final stage, from 1978 to 1980, entails what Traba calls a “painted confession” in which the male body figures centrally and love is envisioned as sacrifice. In this final stage, Caballero develops a “self-mannerist” style that vacillates between the uncertain and the feasible.
This article was the preface to a book featuring an extensive and fascinating interview with Luis Caballero (1943–95) written by Colombian journalist José Hernández (born 1955) in the mid-eighties. By the time the interview was published, Marta Traba had died tragically. Traba’s text not only provides concepts crucial to interpreting Caballero’s work from 1968 to 1980 in terms of form, content, and context, but also sheds light on Traba’s critical approach to Caballero’s art and how she championed works of Latin American art as opposed to international art in the seventies. Significantly, Traba is one of the influences that Caballero mentions in the interview with Hernández. Due to their relationship, Traba’s words can been seen not only as an objective analysis, but also in connection with what Caballero himself considered important factors in his career. Important complements to this text are the article Beatriz González wrote on Caballero’s work from the late sixties [see “Actitudes transgresoras de una década”, doc. no. 860646]; and the article on Caballero by art critic Carolina Ponce de León [“Los signos del cuerpo”, doc. no. 1088894].