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The art critic Marta Traba wrote the introductory essay in the catalogue for the exhibition of works by the artist Hernando del Villar that opened at the Galería Belarca April 29, 1975. Traba describes the paintings as festive, decorative, and imbued with a personal use of color and form. She recalls del Villar’s days as a student to point out that the trend favored by his generation linked them to the painter Fernando Botero, and the “deliberate banality of the subject” linked them to a form of “local Pop.” Traba explains that while del Villar was studying in the United States on a Fulbright scholarship, he learned from exponents of the “most avant-garde of the avant-garde”: Chuck Close, Sol Lewitt, and Vito Acconci. Traba claims that that experience strengthened del Villar and cured him of the scant influences of geometric abstraction. In her formal description of the paintings at the exhibition, Traba refers to the artist’s Caribbean landscapes (that she considers based on a “dangerous figuration”) in terms of the thick white line he uses to outline his forms and an “emotional brush stroke,” both of which suggest influences of, but not in abject devotion to Pop Art and advertising images.
The essay by the art critic Marta Traba (1923–83) that appears in the catalogue for the exhibition of works by Hernando del Villar (1944-89) at the Galería Belarca highlights an important moment in the artist’s career as he focused on the landscape of his home region, the Atlantic coast of Colombia. According to Traba, del Villar’s paintings express an avant-garde reading of his local environment. This essay was re-published in the catalogue for the retrospective show presented at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá, Hernando del Villar 1944–1989 (1991).
“Momo” del Villar—as he was known to friends and acquaintances—earned a reputation as a landscape artist who used bright, luminous colors and had a fondness for seascapes. During his time as a student at the Art Faculty of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (1963-67), his figurative works showed an early proclivity for Pop Art. In 1969 del Villar produced a series of silkscreened works, which according to some critics, made him one of the pioneers of this technique in Colombia. He experimented with this technique in advertising studios in Bogotá because local print shops had not yet started using it. After a trip to Washington DC to study with Gene Davis (1920-85), he started exploring abstract geometrical art, a style he perfected in the postgraduate courses he took in New York on a Fulbright scholarship. He spent a total of three years in the United States (1971–74). He exhibited his work regularly from 1969 on, taking part in the II Bienal de Grabado in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1973, and receiving a special mention at the XXVI Salón Nacional de Artes Visuales in Colombia in 1976.
Marta Traba was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and lived in Colombia from 1954 through 1969. She moved in academic and journalistic circles in Bogotá, and had a profound influence on the evolution of the Colombian visual arts of that period. Her theoretical ideas had such an impact that her essays and books are now considered required reading. After leaving the country, Traba kept in close touch with Colombian artists and intellectuals, as shown in the essays she continued to write about artists and art events. Every so often she returned to give lectures, take part in symposia, and film television programs. After her departure—and during her second marriage to the literary critic and editor Ángel Rama (1926-83)—she lived in Uruguay, Venezuela, and the United States. The year before this article appeared, she produced the book Mirar en Caracas (1974), a collection of articles that were published in the Caracas newspaper El Nacional (1972–73). Three years earlier in 1972, she published her essay “Arte latinoamericano actual” on the influence that the United States had had on the visual arts of the region; she later expanded on the ideas expressed in that essay and published them in her book Dos décadas vulnerables en las artes plásticas latinoamericanas (1973).