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In his essay in the catalogue for the exhibition titled Antonio Berni: oleos y collages [Antonio Berni: Oil Paintings and Collages] (Buenos Aires, Imagen Galería de Arte, 1974), Berni writes about the Surrealist influence in his work, and about his views on collage and style.
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 an important resource that helps to explain Berni’s views on Surrealism and its influence on his work, particularly as regards the relationship between his earlier works and his production in the ’70s. Here, Berni also proposes his definition of collage as a style and a formal medium of expression for all artistic disciplines—which is why he considers style to be a means of expressing ideas and realities. His claim that the subject matter is the strong point in all his work allows us to understand the frequent formal changes he made throughout his career.