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In the introduction to the catalogue of the exhibition Pintura abstracta de Colombia (Biblioteca Luís Ángel Arango, Bogotá, June 11-25, 1958), Marta Traba points out two problems related to the reception and production of abstract art in Colombia. First, she asserts that “the main impediment to appreciation of abstract art on the part of the public is the demand that it be figurative.” She explains that before works of art viewers tend to expect representations of reality, whether “overt” or disguised “in an incomprehensible manner.” She argues that viewers must stop linking abstract art with figurative art if they hope to grasp that the pictorial laws of the former are wholly independent from those of the latter. Only then will viewers be able to overcome the belief that abstraction is implausible or outright fraudulent. Second, Traba points out that in Europe and North America abstract art is “a common form of expression” that has proven very versatile. In Traba´s view, the style of painter Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar has been responsible for “imposing the idea [in Colombia] that abstract art is the clean, mathematical and aseptic joining of planes.” Traba asserts that the predominance of Ramírez Villamizar has ultimately proven problematic insofar as it has hindered exploration of other forms of abstraction. In closing, the author explains that these problems with respect to abstraction are the result of a “lack of experience with works of this sort.” This show in Bogotá and others like it will serve to remedy that situation.


This introductory text in the catalogue to the exhibition Pintura abstracta de Colombia brings together the arguments and thinking characteristic of art historian Marta Traba in the late fifties. It demonstrates her commitment to defending the work of young Colombian artists making abstract work while advocating the need to transform the viewing public’s appreciation of art. Traba claims that artists should be more varied in their approaches to abstraction. She voices her concern with the viewing public’s role in defining artwork and asserts the need for education in art in order to avoid faulty and contradictory judgments.


The exhibition Pintura abstracta de Colombia (Biblioteca Luís Ángel Arango, Bogotá, June 11-25, 1958) featured twenty-two paintings by Colombian artists Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar, (1923-2004), Marco Ospina (1912-1983), Carlos Rojas (1933–1997), Judith Márquez (1925–1994), Luís Fernando Robles (b. 1932), and Peruvian artist Armando Villegas (b. 1928). In addition to Traba’s text, the catalogue contains brief overviews of the artists’ careers accompanied by an image of a work by each participant. For a number of years, there had been competitions geared exclusively to abstract art, among them the I Exposición de Pintura Abstracta (Biblioteca Nacional, Bogotá, 1955) and the Salón de Arte Abstracto (Galería El Callejón, Bogotá, 1956). These events were organized to bring together and disseminate a form of expression that had been adopted by a number of young Colombian artists.

Nicolás Gómez
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Gustavo Zalamea Traba, Bogotá, Colombia.
Courtesy of Banco de la República, Bogotá, Colombia