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This is a catalog essay for the exhibition “Venezuela Pintura Hoy”, which opened in Havana, Cuba on July 22, 1960, at the Palace of Fine Arts, and then in Caracas on August 28,1960 at the Museum of Fine Arts. In it, the poet, painter and art critic Juan Calzadilla assures the reader that while this essay is not intended to be a complete vision of all the tendencies at work in Venezuelan painting; rather, it is representative of some of the global trends to which Venezuelan artists have gravitated in recent years. Jesus Soto, he says, is included in the exhibition because he is a significantly recognized artist, “a painter imbued with all the achievements of our time.” Other artists like Luisa Richter, Manuel Quintana, Mercedes Pardo, Rolando Jaimes Sanchez and Maruja represent a set of established painters in the Venezuelan artistic milieu. Daniel Gonzalez is included because of his “aggressive and decanted syntax”; Teresa Casanova and Renzo Vestrini are featured because of their innovative use of color; and Fernando Irazabal is singled out for his rough texture. A significant number of the artists are at the early stages of their careers and currently in a state of creative sub-alterity, somewhat emergent compared to more solid avant-garde tendencies. All told, the artists represent a “gradual evolution” of approaches, with varying degrees of rebellion and synthesis.
When Juan Calzadilla (b. 1931) wrote this essay, Venezuelan artists were beginning to move away from long- established European strategies like Constructivism and figuration. Informal art had been on the rise since the late 1950s and was also stimulated by European artists, but various artistic centers in Latin America had been building their own variations on this style. Grupo El Paso in Madrid, which used informalist tactics, had held exhibitions of artwork frequently in Caracas, and this exposure, coupled with several experimental salons in Caracas and Maracaibo in 1960, led to the fomenting of a particular brand of informalism unique to Venezuela. (The catalogs and essays for these seminal exhibitions are listed in the paragraph below.) “Venezuela Pintura Hoy” included 39 works by 13 artists, including co-curator Daniel González (b. 1934).
“Venezuela Pintura Hoy” was organized by Daniel González (b. 1934) and Juan Calzadilla (b. 1931). Calzadilla is identified as the writer of the catalog essay and acted as a mouthpiece for informal art until he branched off this movement 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 (doc. no. 1279579), and “Presentación: ESPACIOS VIVIENTES” of 1960 (doc. no. 1279384)].
The painter and photographer Daniel González was an active participant in Venezuela’s avant-garde circles in the late 1950s and 1960s. He was a core member of the group El Techo de la Ballena throughout the 1960s and provided photographs of the group’s activities. During one of González’s visits to San Francisco in the late 1950s, González had at least one exhibition at the City Lights Bookstore gallery, which Ferlinghetti had co-founded with Peter D. Martin in 1953. Gonzalez’s exchanges with Ferlinghetti and with Beat culture proved fruitful material for his Venezuelan community of artists, as they found like-minded artistic production taking place there. González translated Allan Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” and several works by Lawrence Ferlinghetti for publications in Caracas, which led to the spread of Beat literature in Venezuela. For more on these translations, see Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem “Obbligato del Chatarrero” (doc. no. 1279418).