El Colombiano (Medellín, Colombia). "Aníbal Gil, maestro del grabado." October 18, 1973.
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This article introduces the exhibition of prints by the Colombian artist Aníbal Gil Villa at the Centro Coltejer in the city of Medellín, where he presented his “dimensiones especiales” series. This 1977 exhibition underscored the importance of the contribution to Colombian visual arts made by Gil Villa, an artist who “has seriously cultivated the art of printmaking in Colombia.” The article includes an interview with the artist, who voices his opinions about the Twelfth São Paulo Biennial (1973) and about contemporary art. Gil goes on to discuss the works presented at the Biennial by the winning artist, the Belgian Jean-Michel Folon, and by the Colombian artists who were also there, Juan Antonio Roda, Pedro Alcántara, and Luis Caballero. Gil Villa also mentions the rising popularity of printmaking, fueled by greater knowledge about the technique and its acceptance among Colombians, which according to him, is largely due to events of international importance such as the Bienal Americana de Artes Gráficas that was soon to open in Cali. Gil states that in the past ten years he has focused on printmaking, and discusses the evolution of his subjects: jails, crowned figures, tributes, and doves; the latter being the dominant theme of the exhibition. Sincerity, authenticity, and discipline are key principles in Gil’s work, and he claims that he can only be defined in terms of his work. This interview highlights the parallels that exist between the art that Gil produces and his reflections on the formative processes of Colombian art. He claims that there is “no such thing as authentic Colombian art,” because local artists’ styles, techniques, and interests are totally dissimilar. Gil underscores this phenomenon by pointing out that local art is contaminated by the myriad influences of the “amalgamated culture” that engulfs artists who draw on many different styles to create their own individual work.
This interview is an important document because it records the opinions expressed by the Colombian artist Aníbal Gil Villa (b. 1932) concerning the Twelfth São Paulo Biennial, the landmark international contemporary art event that began in 1951, and because it allowed the artist to talk about his muralist period in the early years of his career. Oscar Ladmann, the honorary Colombian consul in São Paulo, invited an artist from the Antioquia region of Colombia to attend the opening of the Brazilian Biennial; therefore, Gil Villa was present as an observer. In his remarks on the prizewinning work by the Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon (1934-2005), Gil refers to a couple of quotes drawn from international publications—Le Nouvel Observateur and Graphis—that he translated.
At the exhibition at the Centro Coltejer in Medellín in 1973, Aníbal Gil exhibited large prints that were inspired by his own personal experience and alluded to his motherless childhood, the Colombian Violence, rural peasants, and imprisoned or solitary men.
In his earliest phase (before his first trip to Europe), Gil produced landscapes and studies of the human body; he has explored these subjects throughout his career, in murals and watercolors. In 1952 to 1953, at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas at the Instituto de Bellas Artes in Medellín, he took classes from the painter Rafael Sáenz (1910-98), and from art instructors such as Fernando Botero (b. 1932), Rodrigo Callejas (b. 1937), and Augusto Rendón (b. 1933). Gil complemented the training he received in his native city by reading books that were available to him during his stay in Italy, including Universalismo constructivo by the Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres García (1874-1949) and the Treatise on Landscape Painting by André Lhote (1885-1962). These books taught Gil about the value of symbols and introduced him to “psychological space,” as reported by the Colombian art historian Santiago Londoño Vélez (b. 1955) in his book Aníbal Gil (2009). In 1954 Gil went to Europe to study al fresco mural painting in Florence, Italy. During his second phase he began exploring printmaking, which he appreciated for its growing popularity and aesthetic power, and especially for its potential in terms of expressing a message, its versatility as a medium for artistic expression, and the speed and economy it offered in reaching a variety of different audiences. In the article, Gil reports that he will be taking part in the II Bienal Americana de Artes Gráficas in Cali (1973), where he exhibited his works ¿Quiere Ud. la paz? (1972) and Pequeño Homenaje (1973).
Aníbal Gil is considered a pioneer in the field of printmaking in Medellín for a number of reasons. He founded the Taller de Grabado at the Instituto de Artes Plásticas at the Universidad de Antioquia in 1964 with the help of the Colombian sculptor Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt (1939–95), who was the director of the Instituto at the time. He also created the position of drawing professor at the Universidad Nacional at Medellín, and organized the first exhibition of works by students of printmaking at the Universidad de Antioquia’s Instituto de Artes Plásticas at the Museo de Zea in 1968. The academy played a very important role in the development of the graphic arts in Medellín, which was distinct from what happened in Cali, where international events such as the American Biennials of Graphic Arts were organized. This encouraged the launch of graphic art shops founded by Colombian and international artists, such as the Grabas group, the Taller Cuadrante, and the Taller Corporación Prográfica de Cali. Aníbal Gil was a teacher of teachers. His students included the Colombian artists Saturnino Ramírez (1946-2002) and Fabián Rendón (1953-2000), and painters and printmakers who belonged to the 1970s generation of artists in the city of Medellín.