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In a critical overview of the work of Colombian printmaker Augusto Rendón, Colombian art historian Álvaro Medina divides Rendón’s production into four periods. During the first period (1962-1964), Rendón’s work veered away from abstraction. These early prints faced two dangers: the rhetoric of theme and the literary excesses of the anecdote. During this phase, Rendón’s Santa Bárbara [Saint Barbara] was awarded first prize in the print category at the XV Salón de Artistas Colombianos (1963). During second phase (1965-1970), the influence of Norman Mejía and Pedro Alcántara Herrán was key to allowing Rendón to explore a “visceralist figuration.” Along with painter Carlos Granada, Alcántara and Rendón participated in the touring exhibition Los testimonios (1965), which condemned government violence in Colombia. During this phase—which did not yield Rendón’s most felicitous production—he was once again awarded a prize in the print category at the XVIII Salón de Artistas Nacionales (1966) for the lithograph Homenaje a Colombia [Homage to Colombia] (1964), a work produced during the earlier period. During the third period (1970-1974), Rendón’s work was largely disoriented; it is hard to make sense of his prints from those years due to the great number of elements they involve. During the fourth phase (1973-1976), Rendón was able to hone the work from the previous phase. These new works, which were based on drawings called Las reivindicaciones [The Revindications] (1973), were finally able to “powerfully communicate all the vigor of the political struggles to which he was committed.”
This text by Álvaro Medina (b. 1942) is the most thorough critical overview of the graphic work of Augusto Rendón (b. 1933) written by an art historian in the seventies. It was written during a boom in Colombian printmaking. Medina’s decision to divide fourteen years of production into four phases sheds light on the overarching influences and processes instrumental to the maturation of drawing and printmaking in Colombia. As such, this text is fundamental to research on those languages in the sixties and seventies.
The point of departure for this critical overview is the moment when Rendón eschewed both abstraction and painting to become a testimonial and critical printmaker. As is evident from the exhibition Los testimonios (1965) held in conjunction with Pedro Alcántara Herrán (b. 1942) and Carlos Granada (b. 1933) (see “2 festival de vanguardia,” doc. no. 1098526), social themes dominated Rendón’s work from the sixties. Rendón studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di San Marco in Venice with professors Rodolfo Margueri and Viviani, both of whom were outstanding graphic artists. When he was hired as a professor at the Universidad Nacional of Colombia, he took on the tasks of building all the graphic workshops and of hiring outstanding printmakers to run them: Alfonso Quijano Acero (b. 1927), Alfonso Mateus (b. 1927), Rodolfo Velásquez (b. 1939), and Umberto Giangrandi (b. 1942). In 1963, prizes for drawing and printmaking were added to the Salón de Artistas Colombianos. At that 15th edition of that event, Alcántara Herrán’s Naturaleza muerta No. 1, 2, 3 [Still Life No. 1, 2, 3] was awarded the prize in the drawing category and Rendón’s Santa Bárbara was awarded the prize in print category.
Medina’s interest in graphic languages is evident in the catalogue text he wrote for the exhibition Dibujantes y grabadores (1975) held at the Museo de Arte of the Universidad Nacional of Colombia. In that essay, Medina outlines a number of reasons for the rise of the graphic arts at that moment (see “Dibujantes y grabadores colombianos”, doc. no. 1089856). When Medina published this article on Rendón, he was a professor of art history at the Universidad Nacional of Colombia. He also wrote art criticism for the regional press, specifically for Barranquilla-based newspaper Diario del Caribe and Cali-based newspaper El Pueblo. In 1978, he published Procesos del arte en Colombia and, three decades later, in 1995, he published El arte colombiano de los años veinte y treinta, both of which are fundamental works of Colombian art history. At present (2010), Medina is a freelancer researcher.