Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

Divided into eight chapters, this text by scholar Susana Benko is a study of contemporary Venezuelan art. The first part serves as an introduction, and consists of a brief overview of the Clara Diament Sujo collection. Afterward, she turns her focus to the first groups that rebelled against the rigidity of the traditional trends, and then analyzes the emergence of geometric-abstraction. The fourth part deals with the rise of informalism, while the fifth offers a critical interpretation of the work of certain artists. The sixth section describes the confrontation between abstract and figurative art. The seventh chapter centers on the 1970s, and the artists who emerged in Venezuela during this period. The last part serves as a conclusion, revealing the evolution traced by the Collection, and its efforts to encourage the recognition of young artists.

Annotations

This text by scholar Susana Benko was part of the catalogue for the exhibition Una visión del arte venezolano 1940–1980. Colección Clara Diament Sujo (Caracas: Galería de Arte Nacional, 1995) [A Vision of Venezuelan Art 1940-1980. The Clara Diament Sujo Collection]. The exhibition featured a representative selection of the collection organized by the Venezuelan gallerist of Argentine origin. Instead of limiting herself to writing an essay on the collection itself, Benko used the works contained therein to offer a comprehensive exploration of Venezuelan contemporary art between the decades of the 1940s and 1980s. [The essay] is not strictly organized in a chronological sequence— rather it is organized by trends, movements, and groups— different artists who arose at the same time are not catalogued within the same genre, but individually (or at times in groups). The chief characteristics of Benko’s essay are: a marked focus on groups of artists and their collective experiences; analysis of the thoughts and philosophies of Los Disidentes, the Techo de la Ballena, Barraca de Mari- Pérez, the Círculo Pez Dorado, of Cuarenta grados a la sombra; bringing to light the influence and consequences of the confrontation between the abstract (geometric and kinetic) and figurative trends in Venezuelan art; explaining the leading role played by informalism (which was influenced by the considerable presence of artists such as Elsa Gramcko in the collection); and finally, a clear stance against art criticism and the “pigeonholing” promoted by artists in certain movements, resulting in the creation of rigid structures that were not in accordance with ideological and artistic stances.

 

In studying art groups, Benko departs from the precedent set by the Círculo de Bellas Artes and the reactions resulting from the rigidity of the standards set by the academies and the official art salons. The emphasis she places on the informalist movement must also be noted— it arose in Venezuela in the 1960s—­, which makes this text one of the most comprehensive essays to be written a posteriori on this movement. In summary, this text is essential and functions as a primary source for understanding the groups, movements, and trends that were part of the Venezuelan artistic panorama of the twentieth century.

Researcher
Juan Carlos Azpúrua
Team
Fundación Mercantil, Caracas, Venezuela
Credit
Reproduced with permission of Susana Benko, Caracas, Venezuela