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    Synopsis

     

    In this exhibition catalog essay, the painter, poet and art critic Juan Calzadilla explains the currents that have taken place in Venezuelan painting through the lens of five artists: Teresa Casanova, J.M. Cruxent, Maruja Rolando, Daniel Gonzalez, and Fernando Irazabal. Since this exhibition took place a few months after the formation of the Venezuelan avant-garde group El Techo de la Ballena in 1961, a portion of the essay is devoted to El Techo’s aesthetics and position. Calzadilla argues that El Techo has experimented so boldly and freely with processes and materials that they were currently reviving what was being theorized as a dead art form. Three features, to Calzadilla, stand out as notable about El Techo de la Ballena: their rejection of local traditions; their constant need to experiment; and their need to make evolutions in media as the basis of artistic progress. Calzadilla notes that several other participants were prevented from taking part in the exhibition because of transit issues and size restraints on works of art. He concludes by mentioning the artists who were not included in this exhibition—specifically, Gabriel Morera, Quintana Castillo, Angel Luque, Luisa Richter and Jorge Castillo— and notes that those artists, thanks to the generosity of the Biennial authorities, ended up being able to show there after all.

     

    Annotations

     

    The artists in “V pintores venezolanos” were selected by 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, see the ICAA digital archive: [“Por un arte del mañana…”] (doc. no. 1279595); the untitled essay for Salon Experimental in Caracas of 1960 (doc. no. 1279579); and “Presentación: ESPACIOS VIVIENTES” (doc. no. 1279384)]

     

    This exhibition makes frequent mention of the avant-garde group El Techo de la Ballena, which was composed of Venezuelan artists and writers combining different disciplines—visual arts, poetry, photography, film, performance art, among—to create interrogative and revolutionary artwork during one of the most violent decades in Venezuelan history. Guerilla warfare, far-left ideas, political repression, and problematic city planning helped create a framework for this group’s formation. In painting, sculpture, and writing, they encouraged an informal aesthetic and an ethos of aggression that was meant to combat the dominant paradigms of abstract geometry, landscape, and social realist styles. Their strategies were subversive and often incorporated Dada or Surrealist tactics. Their large editorial production encompassed at least three issues of Rayado sobre el Techo de la Ballena and many exhibitions.