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Synopsis

The text “El color de la vida, el color de la muerte” by critic and writer Darío Ruiz Gómez was published in the flyer put out by the Museo de Arte Moderno of Bogotá on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name featuring work by painter Carlos Granada held in May 1976. The text provides a critical analysis of the complicated reception of Granada’s pictorial work in Colombia. His art has been called immoral, impertinent, and obscene. Ruiz Gómez praises Granada’s work because it “disturbs,” pointing out and confronting the fears endemic to a prudish and hypocritical society. His images appeal directly to sensuality, eroticism, and violence as symptomatic of Colombian history. They also make reference to the repression and economic hardship Granada experienced as a citizen, artist, and human being. In a sarcastic tone, the text claims that the censorship to which Granada’s work is subjected is a faithful reflection of a society unable to see itself in anything it deems “wicked.” Ruiz Gómez praises Granada’s work for not falling into the conceptualization characteristic of contemporary art which, in his view, renders art theme. As such, Granada’s artistic proposal manages to keep a firm hold on its formal and pictorial values.

Annotations

This text published in the flyer to the solo exhibition of Colombian artist Carlos Granada (b. 1933) documents the positive response of Colombian critic and writer Darío Ruiz Gómez (b. 1936) to the artist’s work. In his analysis, Ruiz Gómez defends Granada’s production against censorship and criticism by arguing that it is a cruel and wrenching reflection of the country’s socio-political situation. Ruiz Gómez claims that the “monotypes on violence” are an alternative to so-called historical truth, which he calls “social mental laziness.” On this basis, Ruiz Gómez asserts that the true function of the artist is to level criticism of social phenomena “until the radiant country we all dream of has arrived.” 

The sarcastic tone of this text is a response to the way Granada’s art was received by the general public and the art milieu. Indeed, art critics argued that the formal and thematic components of Granada’s work were the basis for the caustic political vision implicit to it. Issue can be taken with the derogatory way Ruiz uses the term “contemporary.” In his view, the notion of the contemporary could reduce Granada’s exhibition and place violence at its center. He asserts that, ultimately, this does not occur thanks to the work’s formal strength. The images in the catalogue show wrenching scenes of war where groups of soldiers attack unarmed peasants and civilians. These works comment on the violence exercised by the State—in particular, by the governments in power after the Frente Nacional (1958–74) under President Julio César Turbay Ayala (1978-82), for instance—as it repressed the organization of trade unions and peasant groups.  

Artist Carlos Granada has a degree from the Universidad Nacional of Colombia. After having been awarded first prize at the XIV Salón Nacional de Artistas (1963), his work was barred from competing in the 9th edition of the same event, which was held in 1969. He was an emeritus professor at the Universidad Nacional and, later, the chair of the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano’s Art Department. 

 

Writer, journalist, literary critic, and university professor Darío Ruiz Gómez was a columnist for the newspaper El Mundo. In 1974, he published a book of short stories entitled Para que no se olvide su nombre. At present (2010), he is a member of the faculty at the Universidad Nacional (Medellín campus).

Researcher
Carlos Eduardo Monroy Guerrero
Team
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Credit
Courtesy of Darío Ruiz Gómez, Medellín, Colombia