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In this four-part essay, the critic Francisco Da Antonio discusses—extensively and for the first time—the naïf painting produced by the Venezuelan folk artist Bárbaro Rivas. Da Antonio recalls the discovery of this folk painter, an illiterate, humble artist, far removed from the academic art world and steeped in the religious beliefs and early memories of his childhood in Petare, a village not far from Caracas. The critic, who is also a painter, analyzes some of the artist’s key works, and ponders the possibility of establishing when they were painted. He mentions the subjective and spiritual nature of Rivas’ work, thus distinguishing him from the other folk artists who had been discovered at that time, such as Feliciano Carvallo, Víctor Millán, and Federico Sandoval. In his review, Da Antonio mentions the artist’s cool palette (a predominance of gray on white), and his unconventional avoidance of the descriptive logic and local focus of folk art.
This “monographic essay” by the critic and painter Francisco Da Antonio (b. 1930), about the life and work of the Venezuelan naïf painter Bárbaro Rivas (1893–1967), is an exemplary review of folk sensibilities expressed from the perspective of the world of cultured art. The depth and originality of Da Antonio’s essay prompt comparisons with “El solitario de Macuto,” the essay written in 1947 by the painter Pascual Navarro about the work of Armando Reverón. Da Antonio was a member of the TLA (Taller Libre de Arte, 1948–52), where he got to know Feliciano Carvallo, the painter from Naiquatá, who was discovered in 1945; he was thus well-equipped to pay attention to another folk painter he had been aware of since his childhood in Petare. In addition to studying and promoting Rivas’ painting, the author relates it to the work of modern academically-trained painters such as Armando Reverón and Rafael Monasterios. Da Antonio reviews some of Rivas’ paintings (dated according to the critic’s own research), where he detects an early use of non-painterly materials (such as cuttings glued onto the canvas) and sculptural experiments in baked clay, and even some works inspired by European classics (Velázquez, Murillo, and Millet). This essay is an edited, longer version of a previous one that Da Antonio wrote in 1954 and published on the occasion of Siete pintores espontáneos y primitivos de Petare (1956), the exhibition he organized in the upstairs rooms at the “Bar Sorpresa.” It was included in his compilation Textos sobre arte: Venezuela 1682-1982 (Caracas: Monte Ávila—Galería de Arte Nacional, 1982; reedición, Caracas: Ministerio de la Cultura—El Perro y la Rana, 2007); and in Fuentes documentales y críticas de las artes plásticas venezolanas: siglos XIX y XX, by Roldán Esteva-Grillet (Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela, 2001) and Alfredo Boulton and his Contemporaries: Critical Dialogues in Venezuelan Art 1912-1974 (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2008).
[To read other essays about this artist written by the art critic Francisco Da Antonio, see the following material in the ICAA digital archive: “Introducción: del arte ingenuo al arte popular” (doc. no. 1164485), and “Bárbaro Rivas: historia y mitología” (doc. no. 1160743)].