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This text is the introduction to the master’s thesis “Sujeto es Predicado” by Sylvia Juliana Suárez, defended before the History and Theory of Art and Architecture Department of the Universidad Nacional of Colombia. It consists of a study of the column that historian and art critic José Hernán Aguilar wrote for Bogotá-based newspaper El Tiempo from 1980 to 1992. Suárez argues that Aguilar’s voice was crucial to the configuration of critical thinking on art during that period. This chapter of the thesis also presents the methodology that Suárez used to analyze Aguilar’s discourse. She describes her research as “a tactic to address the history of contemporary Colombian art.” Suárez’s study as a whole picks up on two aspects implicit to that statement: the lack of historical studies of Colombian art from the eighties and the tendency in writing on Colombian art history to envision art events in strategic terms.
In her thesis, historian and art critic Sylvia Juliana Suárez (b. 1981) attempts to teach the viewer to interpret the art of the time. Specifically, she provides the reader of images and artistic products with the elements of analysis required to “to take shape as audience” and to gain knowledge of what is called “visual culture.” Sujeto y Predicado recognizes the importance of the critical thinking of José Hernán Aguilar (b. 1958) and attempts to discover his recurring concerns. Suárez asserts that Jacques Derrida’s notion of deconstruction was central to Aguilar’s writing, as was his knowledge of photography and audiovisual language. She claims that Aguilar, as one of the Colombian thinkers associated with postmodernism and its discourses, is important to understanding the influence of international tendencies on the work of the artists he addressed.
Aguilar is one of the most important critics of contemporary art from Colombia. His writings on artists, works, and art events partake of theories that he adapted to the local context in order to read and analyze works of Colombian art.
In Sujeto y predicado, Súarez asserts that documents that provide information on art from the eighties are important precedents for her research. Writers like Ivonne Pini, Carmen María Jaramillo, William López, Carolina Ponce de León, Efraím Medina, Miguel Huertas were, for her, crucial points of reference in constructing a text that revolves around Aguilar’s critical production. A necessary study of art history of the eighties, Suárez’s thesis formulates methodologies for the analysis and for the study of criticism that are pertinent to contemporary art and its context.
Suárez is widely recognized in the art field for her keen analysis. The fact that she is an artist with a background in art history is evident in her writing and curatorial projects. Suárez is an active player on the art scene: she is an educator and researcher, as well as a member of the Universidad Nacional’s Taller de Historia Crítica. At present (2009), the Taller de Historia Crítica is an important project for study of the consolidation of Colombian art historiography; it sets out to provide a thorough revision of art criticism in the local milieu.