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The text by the art historian and critic, Álvaro Medina, published in the Semanario Cultural [Weekly Arts Section] of the newspaper, El Pueblo in the city of Cali, is the introduction to Graficario de la lucha popular en Colombia [Graphic Portfolio of the People’s Struggle in Colombia] (1977). (The Graficario was a portfolio of prints executed by the Taller Corporación Prográfica {Prográfica Workshop Association} of Cali.) Medina wrote a historical overview of graphic art in Colombia, focusing on artists committed to political or social causes. He states that some of the artists presented in the Graficario were influenced both by Cuban printmakers and by the teachings of the Puerto Rican printmaker, Lorenzo Homar, regarding the artist’s social function. In Medina’s opinion, this enabled the artists to take better advantage of the collective work. The historian informs us that the generation of artists maturing in the 1930s assumed the task of rescuing graphic arts from oblivion after its heyday in the late nineteenth century, as seen in the publication, Papel Periódico Ilustrado (1881?87). The article characterizes the 1930s artists as politically committed to the people’s and workers’ struggle, the theme also chosen for the Graficario.


The Weekly Arts Section of the newspaper, El Pueblo, dedicated a special issue to the portfolio of prints, Graficario de la lucha popular en Colombia (1977) publishing the texts included with the portfolio. The texts led off with a preface by the writer, Gabriel García Márquez (See “Colón disfrazó de caníbales a los indígenas, porque era un genio de la publicidad!: Gabito” [doc. No. 1099741]) followed by an introduction written by the art historian and critic, Álvaro Medina. This text is not only important for its introduction of the Graficario, but for Medina’s hypotheses about the artist’s political commitment and the representation of critical episodes in the people’s and workers’ struggle in Colombia. One of these lines of thought leads him to conclude that the painter and caricaturist of the nineteenth century, José María Espinosa, was “the first committed artist in Colombia.” After enlisting as a patriot soldier, he was taken prisoner, and he used “the caricature, in the first use of this kind, to wage war.” The Graficario assembled silk screens done by 32 Colombian painters, printmakers and caricaturists from various periods in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its documentary importance was that, starting from a specific political, artistic and pedagogical point of view, this artwork allowed the viewer to learn more about the social and political movements in Colombia.


The idea for the Graficario arose in 1976 through the initiative of Álvaro Medina, the arts manager, María Eudoxia Arango, and the artists, Pedro Alcántara Herrán (b. 1942), Virginia Amaya (b. 1954) and Phanor León (1944?2006). In principle, this group was called Arango-Medina publishers/Alcántara-León printers, and was the predecessor to the Taller Corporación Prográfica. They were united by their communist militancy and by the organizational efforts of Alcántara Herrán, who developed some joint projects with socialist countries, including Cuba (See “Texto introductorio del catálogo Cuba-Colombia, raíces comunes” [doc. no. 1098961]) and the former DDR (German Democratic Republic [East Germany]) (“Texto de introducción” [doc. no. 1098976]). 


At the time when the Graficario was exhibited, the city of Cali was the epicenter of printmaking in Latin America. This was the result of three Latin American graphic arts biennials held at the Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia [La Tertulia Museum of Modern Art] (1971, 1973, 1976), which contributed to the dissemination of work by Colombian and Latin American artists. Printmakers working in the 1970s were enriched by the experience of countries such as Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico was especially influential through the island’s own printmaker, Lorenzo Homar (1913?2004), who gave courses on printmaking and directed the work on the graphic arts portfolios created in Cali. The members of Prográfica were linked to Homar by tight bonds of friendship strengthened by their leftist political leanings. Prográfica was a working group from 1977 to 1987, under the direction of Alcántara Herrán and Arango. Specializing in the silk-screen technique taught by Homar, its inaugural project was Graficario de la lucha popular en Colombia.

Adriana María Ríos Díaz
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
© Álvaro Medina, Bogotá, Colombia