The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this article, Marta Traba once again addresses the harsh and unsympathetic attitude of the Latin American public toward modern art. She explains that a lack of knowledge and a disinclination to learn, coupled with a presumption of connoisseurship, are the causes of the public’s negative reaction to modern art. Traba refers to the rejection of contemporary abstract art, explaining that those who revere the idea of “classical art” and dismiss abstraction do not realize that throughout the history of art, abstraction has always existed as a way of honoring the spiritual and transcendental values of mankind, which are different in each period of history. Traba provides historical examples in support of her argument and suggests that in the current period, artists are once again embracing abstraction as a way of restating the values that were interrupted “by the scientific curiosity and physical pleasures of the Renaissance.” She ends by cautioning that “those who so confidently disparage modern art might find that their insults come back to haunt them.”
This essay is important because it expresses a range of ideas that are typical of Marta Traba (1923–1983), the Argentine critic who lived in Colombia during the late 1950s. In the first place, it constructs a powerful defense of modern art—specifically contemporary abstract art—that is in line with the approach taken by Traba ever since she arrived in Bogotá (in September 1954) in support of the work of young artists based on the formalist theoretical framework within which she operated. In the second place, it reveals her interest in the public involvement in the definition of a work of art. In this case, she sees a need for public education to avoid mistaken and contradictory opinions. And finally, it shows that her arguments rely on the ideas of foreign theoreticians—Wilhelm Worringer (1881–1965) in this case—and on examples drawn from the history of universal art to explain the local phenomena she explores.
Keeping in mind the artistic situation referred to in this article—in which some artists [among them Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar (1923–2004), Judith Márquez (1925–1994), Edgar Negret (1920–2012), Luis Fernando Robles (b. 1932), and the Peruvian Armando Villegas (1926–2013)] were experimenting with an abstract language—it was published in response to a number of articles written over the course of the decade that opposed abstract art and its supporting discourses.
With regard to Marta Traba’s ideas during the late 1950s, see her book El museo vacío [The Empty Museum] published by Ediciones Mito in Bogotá (1958), in which she proposes a study of fifteen works from a variety of European avant-garde [movements].