Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    Synopsis

    This is the titular essay for the traveling exhibition “Por un Arte de Hoy”, which consisted of twelve artists, all working in the Informal style. In the essay, the artist, poet and art critic Juan Calzadilla emphasizes the free choice of artistic means, and places Informalism in a line of stylistic developments that had taken place since World War II. He notes developments in painting especially; the last ten years, he argues, have seen the elimination of the Renaissance-style illusionistic picture plane. Other developments include a regression of the optimism associated with Constructivism and other prewar movements, in favor of the axiety and insecurity stimulated by the existentialist philosophies of the postwar period. These radical changes, Calzadilla argues, created fertile ground for the Informal art of the contemporary moment. He frames Informalism as “one of the major global manifestations that best characterizes our epoch,” making clear his intention to name this phenomenon as one with widespread implications.

    Annotations

    The impulse for this exhibition was to provide context for Informal art from Venezuela. It was organized by Juan Calzadilla (b. 1931) and other members of the avant-garde community at the time. It opened at the Valencia Atheneum in Valencia, Venezuela on November 23, 1960, and then traveled to the Cecilio Acosta Library in Los Teques, Venezuela on December 1st. The exhibition was held in a total of five cities in Venezuela, and all iterations of the exhibition featured the same artists, catalog and essay. It was one of the foundational attempts to understand Venezuela as participating in advanced conversations about contemporary art, and created a space separate from trends at the time that focused on geometric abstraction. Venezuela’s two major social and political shifts at this moment were the recovery from World War II and the rapid spread of wealth due to its burgeoning oil reserves. This combination of anxiety and abundance paved the way, in the organizers’ opinions, for Informal experiments in painting: work that placed less emphasis on the artist’s identity and on proposals for a better society. Instead, it was a style that allowed for an ambivalent engagement with the social milieu. “Por un arte de hoy…” therefore proposed a new way to see the present moment: as one where previous movements and tendencies were cast off in favor of the unknown.

     

    “Por un arte de hoy…” 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). He is identified as the writer of the catalog essay and acted as a mouthpiece for informal art until he branched off in the early 1960s. 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 Venezuela’s changing art climate in this period, see “Por un arte del mañana…” of 1960 [see the ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 1279595)], the untitled essay for Salon Experimental in Caracas of 1960 [see the ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 1279579)], and “Presentación: ESPACIOS VIVIENTES” of 1960 [see the ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 1279384)].)