Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

This is Antonio Berni’s essay on four Peruvian painters,José Sabogal, Julia Codesido, Camilo Blas, and Teresa Carvallo, in which he describes both their technical abilities and the subject matter of their works. Berni stresses the importance of mural painting and the need to study the pre-Columbian past.  

Annotations

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 is important because it sheds light on Berni’s awareness of contemporary art in the Andean countries, a side of him that is often eclipsed by his relationship with David Alfaro Siqueiros and by his European education. He reports on the mural work being done in Peru, restating the same issues he referred to in the debate with Siqueiros in 1933: the relationship with the government and the lack of walls. He also mentions the body of paintings inspired by the pre-Columbian world. 

Researcher
Roberto Amigo.
Team
Fundación Espigas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Location
Archivo Berni. Copia en Fundación Espigas (materiales especiales, carpetas Archivo Berni).