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In this article, art historian María Margarita Malagón-Kurka analyzes a series of works by Colombian artists that address the topic of violence. She argues that there are two distinct tendencies that took shape in two different historical moments. The first period encompasses the fifties and sixties and includes neo-figurative works by Alejandro Obregón, Norman Mejía, and Pedro Alcántara. The second period encompasses the eighties and nineties, and includes works produced in an indexical language by Beatriz González, Oscar Muñoz, and Doris Salcedo. The article is structured around four different sections, each of which addresses a different historical moment and the artistic formulations it witnessed. The titles of the sections, which are organized chronologically, are “Visualización de los acontecimientos (1948–1958)”; “Neo-Figuración y política en la década de 1960 y principios de la de 1970”; “Hacia un nuevo lenguaje visual en la década de 1980”; and “Hacia los años 1990: consolidación de un lenguaje indéxico.”


This article by Margarita Malagón-Kurka (b. 1965) is unique among the writings on art from Colombia that address the widespread violence in that country [see “Gráfica testimonial en Colombia,” doc. no. 1092323 and “El arte de la violencia: nunca la imaginación supera su crudelísima realidad,” doc. no. 1093642] insofar as it analyzes variations in works according to the intentions of their creators. Malagón-Kurka argues that these variations are due to different perceptions of the human condition, reformulations of the dynamics of violence, and mostly, new visions of artistic practices. 


Neo-figuration and the concept of indexicality are fundamental to Malagón-Kurka’s argument. Neo-figuration is a movement that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century in opposition to abstract art; it entails a return to the represented object and an emphasis on expressiveness in art. The notion of indexicality, formulated in the late seventies by theorist and art critic Rosalind Krauss, involves a language that is both evocative and indicative in works of art; this language invites the viewer to interrogate the original referent, which in the Colombian case, is bound to human actions and behavior.  


María Margarita Malagón-Kurka studied philosophy at the Universidad Javeriana. She has a doctorate in art history from the University of Texas (Austin). Her publications include La imagen necesaria en Luis Caballero; Gusto y gesto en la obra de Beatriz González; Ensayos sobre dos artistas colombianos contemporáneos: Luis Caballero y Óscar Muñoz; and Doris Salcedo, irresolución como posibilidad.

Taller Historia Crítica del Arte (U.N.): Maria Clara Cortés
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of María Margarita Malagón, Knoxville, TN