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


Document first page thumbnail
  • ICAA Record ID
    La obra más seria, interesante y esforzada del año : Judith Márquez
    Prisma : Revista de estudios de crítica de arte (Bogotá, Colombia). -- No. 11- 12 (Nov.- Dic. 1957)
    Journal article – Essays
    Traba, Marta. “La obra más seria, interesante y esforzada del año : Judith Márquez.” Prisma : Revista de estudios de crítica de arte (Bogotá, Colombia), no. 11- 12 (November- December 1957).

In this short article written in late 1957, Marta Traba writes about the work of the Colombian painter and editor Judith Márquez. As indicated in the title, Traba argues that it is “the most serious and interesting work, and shows the most effort, of any work done this year.” She mentions that this is among the valuable works created in Colombia, based on its pictorial explorations in which the artist prioritizes her disinterest in calling attention to her artistic personality. In this regard, Traba comments that a predominant quality of Márquez’s painting is the desire “to be the anonymous creator of a good painting.” Through the comments in this article, the art critic asks the painter to define her personal style in order to achieve a [more] uniform style to her work.


The importance of this text by Marta Traba (1923–83), the Argentine art historian and critic who was living in Colombia since the early 1950s, is in its approach to the work of the first abstract painter in Colombia, Judith Márquez (1925–94). The article gave an overview of the concepts of abstract art that were being applied at the time in Colombia. It also introduced the requirements that Traba had recently begun to articulate (as a modern art critic) including concepts such as the individual or period style practiced by the artist, form and color.  


What Traba pointed out as a failing of Márquez’s work—basically style—was precisely and paradoxically one of the main characteristics of her work. It was undoubtedly what allowed her to move freely through the different manifestations of abstract art that appeared in the first half of the twentieth century. In this respect, and despite anything stated by Traba, the painter became one of the most important artists of the 1950s in Colombia, a decade characterized by the investigation of avant-garde art forms. Moreover, the painter, as an artist and an editor, stimulated and mobilized this investigation, deeming it a “rupture” with the figurative art that dominated Colombian [art] in the mid-twentieth century. It was a period that could be characterized by its experimentation with modern art.


Judith Márquez was the editor of the journal Plástica, which circulated between 1956 and 1960; it was the first publication exclusively dedicated to the visual arts in Colombia that managed to stay in print. This article was the last written by Marta Traba as editor of the journal Prisma, which could be considered Colombia’s second art journal, published only during the year 1957. From this fact, it can be inferred that the article may suffer from a conflict of interest considering that the editorial plans of both journals were to keep on publishing [indefinitely].

Julián Serna
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Fernando Zalamea Traba, Bogotá, Colombia