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Horacio Safons reports on Antonio Berni’s exhibition at the Centro de Artes Visuales (Buenos Aires, 1965) at the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, principally analyzing his Ramona Montiel series from a formal perspective and with regard to the nature of its social denunciation.
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.In 1965 Antonio Berni held a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella’s Centro de Artes Visuales; it covered his early production from 1922 through the year of the exhibition itself. This critique by Horacio Safons is interesting because it was published in a Catholic university magazine in which the Ramona Montiel series is praised, calling it the manifestation of the highest artistic maturity. This demonstrates the acceptance that Berni’s work enjoyed in the broadest sectors of society.