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In this interview by the Colombian journalist Mauricio Vargas Linares, the Spanish-born Colombian artist Juan Antonio Roda discusses aspects of his career as a painter and printmaker. He refers in particular to the rising popularity of graphic arts, and mentions his interest in the option for serial reproduction that does away with the unique and original quality of the work of art. The article describes the difficulties that Roda was having with painting shortly before turning to printmaking, and subsequently with printmaking when he returned to painting. These explorations of different languages of art lead him to tell his interviewer that “art is not a specialization; it is instead a way of understanding reality.” Vargas Linares asks Roda about his thoughts on an artist’s political commitment. Roda replies that “the true revolutionary attitude must arise from art itself, from artistic creation.” He adds that there is no “reactionary art;” there is only a “reactionary” use of art.
Two months after this interview, the Valencian-Colombian artist Juan Antonio Roda (1921–2003) presented a collection of recent oil paintings at the exhibition Los objetos del culto [Objects of Worship] (October 1979), at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá. In the early 1970s Roda began working exclusively on printmaking from metal plates; however, in 1976, he returned to oil painting. In this article, he discusses his motivations and early experiences in printmaking and his return to painting.
Juan Antonio Roda came to Colombia in 1955. In his travels along the Caribbean coast, in particular to the city of Barranquilla, he soon met the artists Alejandro Obregón (1920–1992) and Cecilia Porras (1920–1971), and the writers Álvaro Cepeda Samudio, Alfonso Fuenmayor, and Germán Vargas (the father of the journalist who wrote this article), a well-known group of intellectuals that gathered at the La Cueva [The Cave] bar. During the 1960s Roda worked as a painting teacher and director of the Escuela de Bellas Artes [School of Fine Arts] at the Universidad de los Andes (1961–74), and exhibited his paintings. In 1970 he became a Colombian citizen and started working in printmaking after attending the print workshop taught by the Italian Umberto Giangrandi (b. 1942), as mentioned in this article in which Roda says: “At that time I was the director of the Visual Arts School (at the Universidad de los Andes) and I was required to attend the various workshops. Giangrandi was in charge of the printmaking workshop, and he inspired me immediately. One day I tried my hand at it and right then started working on my first series, called Los Desconocidos [The Strangers].” One of the prints from that series, Retrato de un desconocido [Portrait of a Stranger] won first prize for prints at the Ia. Bienal Americana de Artes Gráficas [First American Graphic Arts Biennial] in Cali [see “Primera Bienal Americana de Artes Gráficas. Dibujo. Grabado. Diseño Gráfico” [First American Graphic Arts Biennial: Drawing, Printmaking, [and] Graphic Design], (doc. no. 1075853). During the 1970s Roda entered his prints in a number of exhibitions, winning prizes at international events such as the VIII Bienal de Grabado de Tokio [Eighth Tokyo Print Biennial] (1972), XII Bienal de São Paulo [Twelfth São Paulo Biennial] (1973), III Bienal de Grabado de San Juan de Puerto Rico [Third San Juan, Puerto Rico Print Biennial] (1974), and the Ia. Bienal Americana de Grabado de Maracaibo [First Maracaibo American Print Biennial] in Venezuela (1977).
The journalist Mauricio Vargas Linares (b. 1961) started his career at the newspaper El Heraldo in the city of Barranquilla as a writer and European correspondent in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was the Colombian minister of communications from 1991 through 1992, and has been the director of the Colombian magazine Cambio since 1999.