The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
This document, published on Thursday, May 26, 1998, in the Bogotá newspaper El Tiempo, is a short article lamenting the death (two days earlier) of the artist Álvaro Herazo, at forty-six years of age as a result of a diabetic coma. At the time of his death, Herazo was just completing his fifth year as president of the Escuela de Bellas Artes of Barranquilla, an important position in the field of visual arts of Colombia’s northern shore. The article highlights his studies in London, from which he had returned six years ago. It also deems him a Conceptual artist in the Colombian art milieu, vaguely referring to some “maps” from this period. This obituary artistically relocates him during the final years of his life, referring to his return to “some watercolors that are more traditional,” using this adjective to describe the artist’s last works.
Though brief, this short obituary is relevant since it shows the lack of specialized knowledge of contemporary art practices typical of the Colombian mass media when they covered arts events. This text shows the marginalized position of the art world with respect to the way the events were recorded. Therefore, the death of Álvaro Herazo (1942–88) was deemed an important event due to the position he held as director of Bellas Artes in Barranquilla, much more than for the artwork he created on the national visual arts scene. This is how the text orients the reader (with insufficient information, references, and explanations). In this way, the article itself becomes a mere parody of the theory, history, and practice of arts in Colombia.
The lightness with which journalists write about contemporary art and its practices can be seen in the following sentences quoted from the text: “He was distinguished in the field of ‘Performance,’ in which he was an actor,” and “for a long period, his works were conceptual in nature. He rendered maps with interchangeable regions with a great sense of humor.” Such statements call into question the research work performed by newspapers around the country with respect to the arts. The quotations are reductive, limiting contemporary art practices to incidental techniques used by the artist. Moreover, they reduce the work to jokes in good or bad taste and show unfamiliarity with the essential elements of an art practice, referring to acting as the intrinsic value of a performance piece. In this way, the information is so flattened that it is as if there were no important artistic discourse related to the work. It is laughable to think of a possible redemption of the figure of the artist with the last line: “The last works he created were watercolors that were more traditional.” This statement would have made it possible to read the obituary rapidly, casually, most likely ignoring the institutional criticism to which Herazo joined his voice/appealed. [For more information, see doc. no. 1100220].
Álvaro Herazo was a Colombian visual artist active on the national art scene from 1960 (the year of his first solo exhibition) until 1987, with the exhibition Mirador de las Ánimas en la Avenida del Arsenal in Cartagena, one year before his death. He participated in exhibitions such as Arte de los años 80 at the Museo La Tertulia de Cali (1980) and ARCO in Madrid (1983). He was also a member of Grupo 44 of Barranquilla along with Delfina Bernal and Eduardo Hernández (b. 1954). Without maintaining one defined style or medium, Herazo was distinguished by being a multifaceted artist and one of the first to present performance art in Colombia, along with María Evelia Marmolejo (b. 1958) and Rosemberg Sandoval (b. 1959).