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Antonio Berni writes about moral issues, and discusses what people can actually do in response to the injustice and criminal activities in the world. He reviews the work of Raquel Forner, attempting to explain it through a series of formal, technical, and psychological questions.
Antonio Berni was born in Rosario, Provincia de Santa Fe, in 1905 and died in Buenos Aires in 1981. Berni went to Europe in 1925 to study art. He settled in Paris, where he became involved with the Surrealist avant-garde and began exploring the Communist theories that were in vogue at the time. On his return to Argentina, he arranged an exhibition of his Surrealist works at the Asociación Amigos del Arte in 1932. A year later, Berni joined the Equipo Polígrafo (the group founded by [Mexican artist] David Alfaro Siqueiros), which created the mural called Ejercicio Plástico [Plastic Exercise]. His theory of Nuevo Realismo [New Realism], an artistic expression of political and social commitment, evolved out of his vision of transcendent realism. In 1944, Berni founded the Taller de Arte Mural [Mural Art Workshop]. During the 1950s he produced a number of paintings that depicted rural life, set mainly in the northern Argentine province of Santiago del Estero. These were, in fact, the first chapters in his narrative series of collages featuring his character Juanito Laguna. In 1962 he was awarded the grand prize for print and drawing at the Venice Biennale. The following year he began his Ramona Montiel series. During the ‘60s and ‘70s—while continuing to produce paintings, collages, and prints—he created objects, installations, and happenings, and explored stylistic variations in the field of realistic figuration. This document helps to understand the depth and breadth of Antonio Berni’s theoretical knowledge as he set about reviewing the work of his contemporary, Raquel Forner, in the 1940s. It is interesting to see how he applies the moral and political discourse of leftist thought during the Cold War, using it as a prism through which to view Forner’s work from that period. As is his custom when writing about other artists, Berni combines his technical analysis of the works with general remarks about capitalist society. In this case, he defines Forner’s work in terms of the poetic sensibilities of Paul Valéry and André Breton, a point of view that is reminiscent of Berni in the late ’20s, when his painting was influenced by Surrealism. Beginning in the mid 1930s, Raquel Forner (1902-1988) produced a series of dramatic, symbolic paintings that expressed her views about mankind at war. In 1947, when Berni wrote this review of her work, Forner was awarded the Palanza Prize by the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes.