El Colombiano Dominical (Medellín, Colombia). -- Oct. 22, 1995
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In this lucid text, Mexican mural artist David Alfaro Siqueiros describes Colombian sculptor Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt, a young man at the time, as a talented artist and pioneer of sculpture in Mexico. Siqueiros explains that Betancourt Arenas’s early work suffered from excessive “mannerism,” which he defines as the predominance of a preconceived notion of style without regard for the work as a whole. He also criticizes the work’s “archeologism”—or formulaic reference to pre-Hispanic styles—which, Siqueiros asserts, “means nothing in and of itself.” Siqueiros remarks favorably on the polychrome works that Betancourt Arenas made for the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS). He recommends that Betancourt Arenas study colonial art rather than pre-Hispanic art to delve into what he calls “realist political-functional sculpture.”
In this text, David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974) discusses the sculpture Quetzalcóatl o los padres de la medicina [Quetzalcóatl or the Fathers of Medicine], a polychrome monument that sculptor Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt (1939-1995) made for the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) in 1957. Siqueiros places emphasis on the Colombian sculptor’s “great theoretical capacity, as opposed to most contemporary artists who seem to dedicate their humanity in its entirety, including their heads, to pure emotion.” The article evidences Siquiero’s anti-formalist stance in opposition to the avant-gardes, as well as what he considers the reprehensive “looting” of styles effected by Modern art.
The son of peasants, Arenas Betancourt studied in Fredonia, Medellín, and Bogotá. He never graduated from the Escuela de Bellas Artes in the Colombian capital because he did not attend the history course given by modernist poet Luis Vidales (1900-1990). In 1944, Arenas Betancourt moved to Mexico City, where he performed jobs in the fields of photography, painting, sculpture, and architecture to make a living. Starting in 1958, he worked exclusively on his sculpture, making monuments on commission for the Mexican government. His work was greatly appreciated in Mexico.