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This is an introductory essay to accompany the exhibition Salón Experimental, held at the exhibition hall at the Eugenio Mendoza Foundation in Caracas in October of 1960. This was the second in a series of exhibitions meant to promote Informal art within the Caracas avant-garde. In the essay, Juan Calzadilla and the organizers posit a new quality emerging in contemporary experimental artists: rather than having a persona that dominates conversation about the work, the artist is now free to explore processes that have nothing to do with selfhood, and instead focuses on various processes of making. The committee expresses belief in painting “[understood] as a result, before which the artist finds himself newly liberated”. The painter, in other words, is free to be anonymous. The authors conclude by arguing that, while it would have been easier to present a Salón full of enshrined and canonical painters, this is not the purpose of this exhibition, for codification generally only benefits those at the top. Instead, they endeavor to make an exhibition that will be enlivening and interesting to young artists.
The Salón Experimental included 33 artists and was intended as a follow-up exhibition to Espacios Vivientes, an earlier exhibition of emerging painters held in Maracaibo in February of 1960 [see the ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 1279384). The artists on the checklist remained largely the same as the earlier exhibition, with a few exceptions, and the Salón Experimental was roughly the same size and scope as Espacios Vivientes had been. The Salón was meant to embody the curators’ beliefs in the evolution of the arts; they felt that, as tactics and strategies grew, so then should the program of exhibitions meant to showcase them. The styles exhibited were primarily variations on Informalism, a tendency that Calzadilla and others were trying to nurture at the time because of increasing dissatisfaction with Venezuela’s art academies and museums. This Salón Experimental essay can be seen as a turn in contemporary Venezuelan artists’ attitudes toward modernism: while still seeing art as a progression, these painters (and the essayists supporting them) were beginning to understand artwork as being detached from the personality of the artist. The strategies of Informal art (collage, chance methods, and an emphasis on mechanized gesture) facilitated this detachment.
The Salón was organized by several artists and writers at the forefront of Caracas’ avant-garde community at the time, including the artist, painter and poet Juan Calzadilla (b. 1931). Juan Calzadilla co-founded the Venezuelan avant-garde group El Techo de Ballena (Caracas, 1961-68) and was heavily involved in the emerging ecosystem of avant-garde galleries in Caracas, including the influential gallery Sala Mendoza. For more essays by Calzadilla on artists he considered influential, see “Manuel Quintana Castillo: anotaciones para los fragmentos de un muro escrito” (doc. no.1156168), “La pintura de Armando Barrios” (doc. no.1163238), and “La pintura de Carlos Contramaestre” (doc. no. 868632).