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This document is the closing chapter of the manuscript “Sujeto es predicado,” Sylvia Juliana Suárez’s master’s thesis in art history. In it, she provides an overview and assessment of José Hernán Aguilar’s work in criticism produced in Colombia in the eighties. Suárez’s analysis focuses on the role of Jacques Derrida’s thinking in Aguilar’s discourse. Specifically, Suárez emphasizes the importance of the concept of deconstruction to Aguilar’s visual analysis of works of art. Suárez includes in her text fragments of writings by Aguilar on the work of artists like Armando Londoño, Carlos Salas, and Danilo Dueñas, all of whom are engaged in critical production that emphasizes the need to educate the public on aesthetic experience. Aguilar’s discourse on Colombian art was instrumental to introducing conceptions of the making of art informed by postmodernism.
“Sujeto y Predicado, Arte Contemporáneo, Posmodernidad y Deconstrucción en la Columna crítica de Arte de José Hernán Aguilar (Diario El Tiempo 1988–1992)” is the first comprehensive study of José Hernán Aguilar’s art criticism, though earlier texts on this topic include: Una mirada a los orígenes de la crítica de Arte en Colombia by Carmen María Jaramillo; Historia de la crítica de arte: entre le multiculturalismo y la globalización y la crítica de arte en Colombia: amnesias de una tradición by William López; La crítica de arte en Colombia, un proyecto formativo by Efrén Giraldo; and La crítica de arte en Colombia 1974 – 1994 by Carolina Ponce de León. No prior text on the Colombian art scene of the eighties, however, is as rigorous as this study by Sylvia Suárez (b. 1981).
Though Suárez focuses on the column José Hernán Aguilar (b. 1958) published in the newspaper El Tiempo, she also discusses writings published in Arte en Colombia internacional (Art Nexus) and Re–vista de Arte y Arquitectura (Museo de Arte Moderno of Bogotá). This archival material provides Suárez with the conceptual and formal basis of Aguilar’s discourse as an art critic. Thanks to that material, Suárez is able to untangle the varying forms of knowledge the critic deployed to analyze artwork as “visual phenomena.” Aguilar’s studies of audiovisual language and of photography had an undeniable influence on writings that make use of terms taken from visual semiotics. This is particularly true in texts by Aguilar that discuss works whose production entails installation and assemblage, works by artists like Danilo Dueñas (b. 1956), about whom Aguilar wrote widely.
Carolina Ponce de León (b. 1957) wrote art criticism during the same years as Aguilar. Her column gave rise to debate on an array of topics and hence enriched the reading and understanding of art of the eighties. Suárez’s study was published by the Universidad Nacional of Colombia in late 2009.
Aguilar is one of the most important contemporary art critics in Colombia. His writings on artists, works, and events are largely based on postmodern theories that he was responsible for introducing to the local context. Aguilar made use of a language that, Suárez claims, was intended to educate the viewer on how to interpret works of the time. Aguilar provides the reader of the image or the artistic product with components of analysis that further “give shape to an art audience” and provide knowledge about what was called “visual culture.”