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.
The prologue to the book El homosexualismo en el arte actual [Homosexuality in Contemporary Art] by the Colombian artist Pedro Restrepo Peláez was written on May 28, 1968, by the liberal politician Alfonso López Michelsen, who begins by mentioning some biographical details about Restrepo Peláez. He describes and occasionally criticizes the artist’s ideas, disagreeing with his suggestion that men and women are each suited to different sorts of creative work (for example, women would be good fashion designers, and men would be good painters.) Like Restrepo, Michelsen is ruthless when considering gay artists, critics, and gallery owners. Oddly, given his liberal attitudes in artistic matters, the latter believes that gays are to blame for the quest for “novelties” and “extravagancies.” He concludes his essay by criticizing some of the generalizations made by Restrepo Peláez. Michelsen also discusses art criticism in Colombia, which in his opinion, focuses more on the handling of language than in an exploration of ideas and concepts. But he thinks that Restrepo Pelaéz is above the sort of language “juggling” that is present in the work of some critics.
This prologue, written in the charged atmosphere of May 1968—a key moment in contemporary history—records the attitude concerning the connection between homosexuality and art expressed by the liberal politician Alfonso López Michelsen (1913–2007), who at the time was governor of the Department of Cesar and who would one day be elected president of Colombia (1974–1978).
The Colombian artist Pedro Restrepo Peláez, author of the book El homosexualismo en el arte actual [Homosexuality in Contemporary Art], discusses—with an undeniable macho bias—the role of women and gays in Colombian art and culture in the 1960s, a time that was defined by political challenges from the Frente Nacional [National Front] (1957–1974), when liberals and conservatives took turns governing the country. This period saw the rise of many openly gay gallery owners, critics, art historians, and artists who unquestionably dominated Colombia’s art world at the time, including Luis Caballero, Lorenzo Jaramillo, and Enrique Grau, among many others.
The authors of the prologue and the book both blame the gay community for promoting the quest for “novelties” and “extravagancies” in Colombian art. Though Restrepo voices no moral or ethical judgment about homosexuality itself, as López Michelsen does, it should be noted that he blames gay artists for certain phenomena in the postwar visual arts that both authors consider “disastrous.” Without producing any major analysis to substantiate their arguments, both men tend to describe those phenomena as “frivolity” and “exaggerated decorativism.”
Both López Michelsen’s prologue and the ensuing chapters by Restrepo Peláez are without a doubt the only known reference in the history of twentieth-century Colombian art to the role played by gays in the country’s art world.