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.
In this critical essay, historian Francisco Da Antonio discusses the indebtedness of artist Héctor Poleo to Mexican muralism in terms of form and pictorial technique. He also explores the way in which Poleo’s work differs from the aesthetic-political ideals of that school. For Da Antonio, the political, ideological, and historical context on which Mexican muralism is based reflects a revolutionary climate deeply rooted in a society that he argues, is wholly different from the needs and pursuits of social realism in Poleo’s Venezuela. Da Antonio goes on to describe some of the subsequent phases of Poleo’s painting, praising his skill as a draftsman and as a colorist. Da Antonio provides a psychological profile of Poleo that suggests the artist’s deep humanism and selflessness vocation.
Much of the work by historian and critic Francisco Da Antonio (b. 1930) on Venezuelan art deals with social realism, specifically the work by Héctor Poleo (1918–1989) connected to that aesthetic. Indeed, Da Antonio’s enlightening contributions are fundamental to understanding the period. The author asserts that Poleo’s aesthetic stance from the mid-thirties to the mid-forties expresses social concerns tied to the longing for the liberation of the Venezuelan people; yet, the artist does not embrace ideological positions typical of the art of political propaganda. In that sense, the vital stance of Poleo’s work is bound to an unorthodox humanist activism committed to a nationalist ideal. Da Antonio sheds light on the change that took place in the artist’s work starting in 1945. At that point, his production veered toward the “rational,” as opposed to dreamlike Surrealism as an extension of social concerns now tied to the existential angst of the postwar period and to a dehumanization of life that heightens man’s vital drama. The article was written at a decisive moment in Poleo’s production, one characterized by a spirit of synthesis that brought together the “rational surreal,” the dreamlike, Informalism, and some geometric developments that do not lose sight of the anthropological concerns that formed the basis of his aesthetic. The author’s use of the word “Aztec” to describe Mexican muralism produces a degree of confusion since the word denominates a pre-Hispanic culture. Published in the Venezuelan press in late 1973, this was but one of the articles by Da Antonio on this period. In 1982, a number of essays by Da Antonio were compiled in Textos sobre arte (Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, del Consejo Nacional de la Cultura (CONAC), 1982), which was rereleased in 2007 by the Fundación Editorial El Perro y la Rana, a foundation tied to the Ministerio del Poder Popular para la Cultura in Venezuela. (See “Los últimos veinte años en la pintura de Héctor Poleo,” ICAA digital archive doc. no. 1153932).