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This document contains a description of the attendees at the opening of Antonio Berni’s show at the Galería Imagen (Buenos Aires, 1972) and an interview with the artist about the Latin American art scene. In his answers, Berni criticizes communication methods in mass media and the imposition of fashion in art; in another part of the text he is caustic about the control wielded by the new academism of the modern anti-academy; he also comments on the task of the artist and the transcendence of the work.
One of the most outstanding creators in 20th century Argentina is undoubtedly the Rosario born Antonio Berni (1905-81). He studied in Europe beginning in 1925, [and] while living in Paris he connected with the surrealist avant-garde as well as with communism. Upon his return to Argentina, he exhibited surrealist works at the Amigos del Arte [Friends of Art] in 1932. The following year Berni joined the Equipo Polígrafo [Polygraphic Team] (organized by David Alfaro Siqueiros) that went on to create the mural Ejercicio Plástico [Visual Arts Exercise] at Don Torcuato, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. He developed his theory of Nuevo Realismo [New Realism], art with a political and social commitment, which was based on a transcendent realism. In 1944, Berni formed the Taller de Arte Mural [Mural Art Workshop]. During the 1950s, he created paintings of the peasantry, in particular those of the northern province of Santiago del Estero, which gave rise to his Juanito Laguna series of narrative collage paintings. In 1962, the artist won the Grand Prize for Engraving and Drawing at the Venice Biennale. The following year Berni began his Ramona Montiel series. During the 1960s and 1970s—at the same time that he was continuing to produce paintings, collages and engravings—he created objects, installations and happenings; he also explored different stylistic variations of realist figuration.
This document is one of the few that relate Berni to the complex daily life of Argentine culture during the military dictatorship (1966-73; 1975-83), as the description of the opening for the artist’s show Berni. El ámbito de Juanito Laguna antes de Juanito Laguna (1954–1960) [Berni. The Environment of Juanito Laguna before Juanito Laguna (1954–60] series at the Galería Imagen mentions the presence of Admiral Emilio Massera, who was a member of the military junta that carried out the coup d’état. The exhibition featured the urban landscapes of misery that Berni painted between 1954 and 1960 that later became the setting for the Juanita Laguna narrative series. The artist had already participated in the Arte Argentino 78 exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes that was held during the FIFA World Cup tournament; the following year Berni had the distinction of becoming a member of the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes.Antonio Berni’s responses during the interview are related to his comments at the Encuentro Iberoamericano de Críticos y Artistas Plásticos [Ibero-American Conference of Critics and Visual Artists] held in June 1978 in Caracas, Venezuela.