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Juan Calzadilla begins his critical essay by relating a crisis in geometric abstraction to the exploration of Informalism by Omar Carreño. Calzadilla reflects on Carreño’s embrace of the gestural and material aspects of the trend in his paintings and sculpture after a solid career as a Constructivist artist. The author mentions the main characteristics of the movement, portraying them as an alternative to geometric abstraction and functionalism that is considerably closer to feelings and personal experience. Calzadilla describes the El Nereida series as a separate chapter in Carreño’s work, associating it with the artist’s own experience and his interest in the expressive language of painting.


In 1965, the Venezuelan painter and sculptor Omar Carreño (1927?2013) presented his solo exhibition El Nereida at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas, which included a series of paintings in the abstract language of Informalism. This phase was a parenthetical episode in Carreño’s career after about sixteen years producing geometric abstract works. He wanted to go beyond traditional media and supports by creating changeable projects and working on the beginnings of the “Expansionist” movement that he founded in 1967. From 1960 to 1963, however, he began to use an informal language to address the subject of the sea and El Nereida, a boat that had run aground on the shore of the coastal region where he spent his childhood. In his article, the poet, draftsman, and critic Juan Calzadilla (b. 1931) sheds light on Informalism at a time when the validity of Constructivist art was being challenged. He also describes Informalism as an emotional kind of “confessional painting,” agreeing with Carreño’s approach as a way to evoke recollections of his youth on Margarita Island. After the El Nereida exhibition, Carreño came back to geometric abstraction; he published his Expansionist manifestos, and it was not until the mid-1980s that he returned to the subject of the sea in a second parenthetical phase during which he produced the figurative series Si todos los barcos del mundo.


[To read more about this artist’s work, see in the ICAA digital archive the interviews by Alfredo Schael “Omar Carreño. Premio a la constancia, al genio y a la rectitud del proceder creador” (doc. no. 1157337); by Carlos Silva “Si todos los barcos del mundo…” (doc. no. 1157369); by Mara Comerlati “Omar Carreño, figurativo” (doc. no. 1157353); by Antonio Muiño, under the alias of El Diablo Cojuelo, “El expansionismo. Último ‘ismo’ inventado en París por Omar Carreño, pintor abstracto” (doc. no. 1157320); by Carlos Maldonado Bourgoin “Vuelta sobre los pasos” (doc. no. 1157385); and the article by Susana Benko “Omar Carreño. Coherencia de un pensamiento plástico” (doc. no. 1157304)].

Rigel Garcia
Fundación Mercantil, Caracas, Venezuela
Reproduced with permission of Juan Calzadilla, Caracas, Venezuela