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.
In this book, Marta Traba asserts that Colombian artist Beatriz González is “the ‘key figure’ to understanding a specifically Colombian strain of art.” Traba argues that on the basis of critical positions on culture in general and on popular culture in particular, González formulates a coherent pictorial project that entails specific knowledge of the idiosyncrasy of the Colombian society of which she is part, as well as a specific image of the country. Throughout the book, Traba presents and explains some of the debates incited by González’s work, specifically the validity of “the tacky” in art; low art versus high art; painting as a subversive practice; the desacralization of the image; and the consumption of art by the bourgeoisie. Traba provides an overview of the different stages of González’s production starting in the mid-sixties, as well as a conceptual and formal reflection on specific works in order to develop the debates they formulated. She thus revises the notion of “the tacky” in terms of the category of kitsch understood as that which brings new systems to bear on the cultural tradition (and its discoveries and advances). Traba explains how González’s personal language appropriates the collective imaginary based on popular tastes and the mass media. Traba argues that this is subversive insofar as it exposes and satirizes issues that society is hesitant to discuss, situations in which life and death, joy and the macabre, intermingle. Traba also explores how the artist desacralizes cultural fetishes by means of ludicrous reinterpretations. One chapter of Traba’s book addresses a series of paintings Beatriz González began producing in 1970 that are framed in furniture and objects. Traba considers these works among the most significant that have ever been produced in the Americas.
Los muebles de Beatriz González [The Furniture of Beatriz González] is the only book by Argentine art critic and historian Marta Traba (1923–1983) devoted to a single artist. Indeed, it is about a single series of works, the furniture pieces that Beatriz González (b. 1938) began making in 1970. The book sets out to provide tools to understand González’s aesthetic project in the first decade of her career. There is a clear affinity between the production of a young artist from a new generation that took over from artists active in the fifties and sixties, on the one hand, and the critical vision that Marta Traba developed pursuant to the “theory of resistance” published in the book Dos décadas vulnerables en las artes plásticas latinoamericanas, 1950–1970 [Two Vulnerable Decades for Latin-American Visual Art] (Mexico City: Editora Siglo XXI, 1973), on the other. Marta Traba’s theoretical work from the fifties, which put forth a highly formalist vision, was in keeping with the production of a generation led by figures like Alejandro Obregón (1920–1992), Fernando Botero (b. 1932), Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar (1923–2004), and others. In the book discussed here, however, Traba observes a new sort of production as she presents a notion of art that reformulates, appropriates, and envisions “the national” without eschewing a structured pictorial project. Therefore, in this book Traba draws on references from the social sciences (such as Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno) rather than restricting herself to a formalist history of art.
Traba’s reflections demonstrate the pertinence of Beatriz González’s creative strategies insofar as they break away from a personal and romantic impulse in order to make use of an array of sources, such as mass media, popular culture, political discourse, and other means. These strategies are characteristic of the generation that emerged in the sixties and seventies, a generation that includes Bernardo Salcedo (1939–2007), Álvaro Barrios (b. 1945), Antonio Caro (b. 1950), and many others.