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.
Raquel Tibol, an Argentinean critic and art historian who has lived in Mexico City since in 1953, and artist Leonel Góngora discuss work by Góngora considered erotic because it provides a sensual interpretation of reality. Tibol invites the Colombian artist to remark on the environments Los ambientes de verdad [The Environments of Truth] and El cuarto de María [Maria’s Room], the second of which was based on the novel La María (1867) by Jorge Isaacs. Both works were featured in the exhibition La hipocresía o el gobierno del cuerpo (1973) held at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. Góngora considers himself a “repressed” man who eschews his own repression. Because he is committed to not allowing his work to become a commercial product, he chooses to make a living as a teacher. In answering Tibol’s question about his “voluntary exile” (he did not live in Colombia), Góngora denounces the moralism of that Andean nation. He is particularly contemptuous of women whose greatest social aspiration is marriage. Finally, he explains that the “secret painter” (a pseudonym of sorts used by Góngora) is a cultural agitator who maintains that “it is necessary to do what has not yet been done.”
This text is a dialogue between Raquel Tibol (b. 1923) and Colombian artist Leonel Góngora (1932–1999), both participants in Los interioristas or Nueva Presencia movement which attempted to effect innovation in Mexican art in the sixties. The interview was published in the catalogue to the exhibition La hipocresía o el gobierno del cuerpo: Proposiciones plásticas de Leonel Góngora (August 22-September 23, 1973) held at the Sala Verde of the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. That exhibition was particularly significant to Góngora’s career because it featured his environments Los ambientes de verdad, La recámara amorosa [The Love Chamber] and El cuarto de María, the third of which consisted of a bed and a mannequin representing Maria, the main character in La María, a groundbreaking romantic novel by Jorge Isaacs (1837–1895).
In Mexico, Góngora had the opportunity to participate in a group of intellectuals and young artists that opposed the precepts of the Mexican School of painting. From the time he arrived to that country in 1961, Góngora identified with the “rupturist” groups of artists active in Mexico starting in the fifties. These groups reacted against the dominant ideas of that time regarding Modern art and, mostly, against muralism, the hegemonic tendency in Mexico. Góngora joined the Nueva Presencia group, which was created in 1961, after seeing an exhibition featuring work by, among others, José Luis Cuevas (b. 1934), Francisco Icaza, Francisco Corzas (1936–1983), and photographer Nacho López (1923–1986). With Tibol’s support, Icaza, who was a self-taught painter, and Arnold Belkin (1930–1992) wrote the magazine-poster “Manifiesto Nueva Presencia del hombre en el arte moderno” [Manifesto of the New Presence of Man in Modern Art] (1961). Whether operating under the name Interioristas or Nueva Presencia, the group that adhered to that manifesto explored new figuration and formulated a humanist aesthetic reflection. It advocated a strain of art not indifferent to its time and the integration of the individual and the social environment. The group opposed the commercialization of art. Indeed, in this interview, which took place in the sixties, Góngora states that “my art is entirely anti-commercial. I teach to avoid having to make a living from my art.” Though starting in 1963 Góngora was a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, he traveled frequently to Colombia, among other places, in order to exhibit his work and to keep abreast of the cultural and socio-political situation in his country.