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This text presents the exhibition Dibujantes y grabadores colombianos held at the Museo de Arte at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in May 1975. Historian Álvaro Medina asserts that the exhibition brings together figurative artists representative of the peak of printmaking and drawing in Colombia, a period he dates from 1963 to 1975. The author points out “a patent lack of painting” in the production of young artists. This, he claims, entails a reversal of the situation around 1958, when just a few draftsmen and printmakers were recognized at national exhibitions whose assessments of drawing were based on vague notions like “the pictorial.” In his revision of the history of drawing and printmaking, Medina asserts that the contemporary period for drawing began in 1930 when Colombian artist Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo embraced drawing as a medium in its own right. In the case of printmaking, it can be dated to the moment when Luis Alberto Acuña began using graphic production for autonomous artistic ends. The mature periods of these media, in turn, can be dated to Pedro Alcántara Herrán, Luis Ángel Rengifo, and Augusto Rendón, who represent a generation of artists that consciously decided to be draftsmen and/or printmakers on the basis of recognition gained at nationwide events in the sixties. The “mature phase” of those media coincides with a flare up in violence in Colombia and, hence, the themes addressed often entail bearing witness and social condemnation. It was in these languages, Medina concludes, that “the experience of society at the time was most consistently expressed in excellent works of art.”
Drawing and printmaking came to play a major role in Colombian art in the seventies due to both the important works produced in those media and the recognition those languages began to receive. Indeed, art critic Marta Traba (1930–83) analyzed this phenomenon in the book Dos décadas vulnerables en las artes plásticas latinoamericanas 1950-1970 (1973). Traba argued that the political nature of drawing was bound to a sense of discomfort with the growing use of ostentatious materials and “apocalyptic” formats in Kinetic and Minimalist works.
Essential to a study of the importance of drawing and printmaking in Colombia is the large number of exhibitions and events that dealt specifically with those languages. A number of exhibitions entitled Dibujantes y grabadores [Draftsmen and Printmakers] were held in Bogota, though Traba deemed that title inaccurate. In her book, Traba prefers to speak of “hitherto unknown individuals who draw and make prints” or established artists who have returned to drawing and printmaking.
This paradigmatic and original text written by art historian and critic Álvaro Medina (b. 1942) for the exhibition Dibujantes y grabadores colombianos (1975) allows for the comparison of works by different contemporary graphic artists, while discussing figures and moments key to the rise of drawing and printmaking in Colombia.
The following artists participated in the exhibition: Pedro Alcántara (b. 1942), Félix Ángel (b. 1949), Ever Astudillo (b. 1948), Luis Caballero (1943-1995), Juan Cárdenas (1939-1991), Santiago Cárdenas (b. 1937), Alfredo Guerrero (b. 1936), María de la Paz Jaramillo (b. 1948), Armando Londoño (b. 1947), Darío Morales (1944–1988), Oscar Muñoz (b. 1951), Luis Paz (b. 1937), Marta Rodríguez (b. 1947), Miguel Ángel Rojas (b. 1946), Jairo Téllez (1951-1983), Tiberio Vanegas (1937-1983), Mariana Varela (b. 1947), Rodolfo Velásquez (b. 1939), and Alicia Viteri (b. 1946).
When Medina organized this exhibition, he was a professor of Colombian art history at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and a regular contributor to the regional press. His art criticism appeared in the Barranquilla-based newspaper Diario del Caribe and the Cali-based newspaper El Pueblo. In 1978, Medina would publish Procesos del arte en Colombia (1978), a crucial book in art history and art historiography in Colombia [see “Introducción: Para entrar en combate”, doc. no. 1082796]. A prolific writer in his field, Medina is currently a freelance researcher.
Colombian art historian Germán Rubiano Caballero (b. 1938) included this text in the catalogue to the exhibition Los años setentas: Manifestaciones tradicionales y no tradicionales, Arte colombiano del siglo XX (1984) held at the Centro Colombo-Americano.