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.
Walter Engel wrote the review “David Manzur. En la Biblioteca Luis-Ángel Arango”, which was published on October 1, 1961, in the daily newspaper El Espectador. This article analyzes important aspects of the visual arts in Colombia in the 1960s. At the same time, it includes a warning to young artists about criticism he characterizes as “siren songs.” Based on the writer’s analysis of the Abstract paintings shown by David Manzur at the library, he describes them as “pictorial poems, lyrical songs in colors inspired by the almost abstract theme of the flower.” Engel characterizes Manzur’s work as being close to the “Romantic Expressionist” trend, which, in his opinion, has gathered strength in the Colombian and Latin American art milieu. The Viennese critic allows that in the paintings of Manzur (b. 1929), Alejandro Obregón (1920-92) and Luciano Jaramillo (1938-84), there are indisputable references to the subconscious, the poetic and, therefore, to Surrealism. This is not a matter of the artists’ age; it is, rather, a visual arts exercise. Toward the end of the article, Engel gives an aesthetic interpretation of Manzur’s work, deeming it very rich. The writer emphasized the artist’s promising future, noting the award of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a series of events in which he was scheduled to participate in the coming months.
This document is important in a number of ways. To begin with, Walter Engel (1908-2005) reflects on personalities such as Alejandro Obregón (1920-92), citing him as an example for young artists. Above all, he is an example for holding onto his own artistic impetus and for fending off the implacable comments of the critics early on. In addition, the article points out the little-noted relationship of the Abstract painting of certain Colombian artists with Surrealism. As an influence, Surrealism had very little impact on Colombian art.
In 1961, the year when Manzur showed his work in this exhibition, he was invited by the Organization of American States (OAS) to mount an exhibition in the organization’s hall at the Pan-American Union in Washington, D.C. That same year, the artist received a Guggenheim Fellowship (1961-62) to perform investigations [consisting of] his own visual experiments. In 1963, Manzur participated in the exhibition Arte de América y España, shown in Madrid, Barcelona and other cities. In 1964, he was awarded an OAS scholarship to work at the Pratt Graphic Art Center, in New York.
Walter Engel immigrated to Colombia in 1938, following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany as a province of the Third Reich (Anschluss). While setting himself up in business in Bogotá in trade and industry, he often designed local art exhibitions, which allowed him to keep track of the different art trends as they came along. He was also a contributor to a range of publications. He wrote for the newspaper El Liberal, and for the journals Revista de América, Proa, Sábado, Vida, Panorama, Cromos, Índice Cultural, and Boletín Cultural y Bibliográfico. In 1965, he left Colombia permanently, moving to Toronto (Canada), where, in 1968, he founded the Walter Engel Gallery. During his Canadian years, he also wrote articles for the journal Art Magazine.