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In his review of the XIX Salón de Arte Venezolano (1958), the critic Perán Erminy notes the ingenious reliance on historical criteria in the arrangement of works selected for the event, from the old landscape masters to the new style of Abstract art, with nods to naïf painters along the way. Erminy discusses the pair of works submitted by each painter and sculptor, pointing out each one’s formal triumphs and flaws. He also refers to the risks inherent in facile solutions, the “conceptual laziness” that leads to a lack of balance in composition and color, and even to a sloppy linking of lines. The critic deplores the absence of prestigious artists such as Héctor Poleo and Francisco Narváez, and questions the inclusion of works by Jean Roy and Francisco Guinart whom, in his opinion, lack artistic merit. Erminy notes the prizes awarded in each case, making particular mention of the works by Alejandro Otero and Víctor Valera, who won the National Prize for Painting and Sculpture, respectively.
The critic Perán Erminy (1929–2018)) writes in great detail about the XIX Salón de Arte Venezolano, the event that ushered in a period of democracy in 1958 after the fall of the Marcos Pérez Jiménez dictatorship. Erminy’s approach is pedagogical rather than admonitory, in keeping with the spirit of the arrangement of the works. He nonetheless questions the inclusion of Elsa Gramcko and the works of geometric abstraction that he sees as being “Surrealist reminiscences.” Despite all that, his review sounds more like the well-intentioned, guiding thoughts of a studio maestro dispensing advice to his students. This Salon has been free of the dramas that plagued the previous edition, which included fewer avant-garde than traditional works, and produced judgments that were sharply criticized by some, including the painter and theorist Alejandro Otero, who engaged in a heated debate with Miguel Otero Silva, a member of the jury. The new mood of openness can be partly explained by the appointment of the painter Armando Barrios as Director of the Museo de Bellas Artes. Another factor was the creation, during that same year, of the Asociación Venezolana de Artistas Plásticos, which petitioned the Ministry of Education to increase the size of the jury (from nine to eleven members) and to ensure that prizes would involve the acquisition of the work with a budget of ten thousand bolivars, a goal that was not achieved. Erminy shows great command of formal and technical analytical procedures, never once hinting at his personal preference for one movement or another. He devotes lengthy paragraphs to three politically oriented works (by Barrios, Dávila, and Sylva Moreno), but never reveals his opinions on their essential subject matter. The Museo Alejandro Otero, in Caracas, acknowledged the importance of this Salon in 1998 when it decided to study the event by means of an approximate reconstruction.
The event was entitled Arte en libertad: Salón 1958. It was curated by José Antonio Navarrete, and the catalogue included an anthology of essays from 1957 and 1958, written by the critics Clara Diament de Sujo, Gastón Diehl, Perán Erminy, Luis Guevara Moreno, Pedro Duno, Manuel Quintana Castillo, Juan Liscano, and the architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva. These essays had been published previously in several contemporary magazines (Cruz del Sur, Sardio, Integral, Espacio y Forma, Revista Shell, and Farol) and in newspaper supplements (such as “Papel Literario” in El Nacional).
As it happens, though, this review by Perán Erminy was not included. Erminy’s review overlooked the important category of applied arts, and made no mention of the winning artist in that category, Tecla Tofano. The critic also failed to mention other participating artists, such as Omar Carreño, Gego [Gertrud Goldschmidt], Daniel González, Luis Alfredo López Méndez, Cristina Merchán, Iván Petrovszky, César Prieto, Ramón Vásquez Brito, and Oswaldo Vigas.