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 essay, Carolina Ponce de León, the curator of the exhibition Darío Jiménez: Exposición antológica 1938-1980 [Darío Jiménez: Retrospective Exhibition 1938-1980], provides a biographical and critical view of the work of the Colombian artist Darío Jiménez Villegas, who was unknown at the time. Ponce de León explains that this artist’s work was finally being recognized as a result of new attitudes to the Figurative and Neo-Expressionist movements of the 1980s that were able to move beyond the discussions about modernism and progress that had stood in the way of an impartial assessment of certain styles that did not conform to the idea of “a modern, universal form of art.” She mentions the difficulty of reconstructing the artist’s biography since the lack of documents makes it hard to provide a comparison of versions. His alcoholism and licentious lifestyle also prevented widespread recognition of his work because his excesses did not sit well with the prevailing bourgeois conventions of the social milieu. Ponce de León mentions two important factors in his career: his first exhibition when he was 24 years old, in the foyer of the Teatro Colón in Bogotá (1943), and the time he spent in Mexico (1944 to 1948) where he adopted a bohemian way of life. She examines some of the works he produced over a period of forty years, in which she sees signs of post-Impressionist symbolism, metaphysical painting, and German Expressionism; all these works suggest that Jiménez was profoundly inspired by the myths and landscape of Tolima, his native land.
By organizing the exhibition Darío Jiménez: Exposición antológica 1938-1980 [Darío Jiménez: Retrospective Exhibition 1938-1980] and writing the essay “Un paréntesis en el olvido: Darío Jiménez (1919-1980)” [A Break from Obscurity: Darío Jiménez (1919-1980)], Carolina Ponce de León (b. 1957)—director of exhibitions at the Colombian Banco de la República’s Luis Angel Arango Library from 1984 to 1994—reclaimed the life of the painter Darío Jiménez Villegas (b. 1919-80) from the obscurity to which it had been consigned. She thus reaffirmed the Library’s goal of rescuing provincial artists who, for a variety of reasons had been overlooked by Colombian art historians and critics. Ponce de León launched this program in 1984 with the retrospective exhibition of works by the painter Débora Arango (1907–2005).
The life and work of Darío Jiménez challenged the hegemonic artistic values that had dominated the art scene in Colombia since the 1950s. A passionate, driven man, he created a body of work that had nothing to do with the basic ideas that underpinned contemporary art in Colombia. Indifference to his work conspired to deny him crucial exposure—in national salons and in critical texts that legitimized particular artistic languages—and consigned his name to obscurity. Though his bohemian lifestyle was considered offensive in local conservative circles, his work undoubtedly reflected the cultural context of his native Andean region in the department of Tolima in the central western part of the country.
The retrospective exhibition of 85 works by Darío Jiménez Villegas opened at the Luis Ángel Arango Library in Bogotá in March 1987. The event prompted a round table discussion titled “¿Cómo se ha hecho la historia del arte en Colombia?” [How has the History of Art been written in Colombia?]. Participants in this discussion were: the artist Beatriz González (b. 1938), Carmen Ortega Ricaurte (who was at that time the director of Colombia’s National Museum), the gallery owner Alicia Baraibar, and the art historian Germán Rubiano (b. 1938). The fact that Darío Jiménez had been overlooked for so many years led the panelists to discuss questions such as: How has the history of art been written in Colombia? And: What were the parameters for establishing the history of art? The panelists also considered the fact that the history of art in Colombia had been limited to repeating what a few pioneers had written in the early- or mid-twentieth century, heavily influenced by a centrist agenda that contributed little that was new.