Ragon, Michel. Antonio Berni et les aventures de Ramona Montiel. Exh. brochure, París: Galerie Du Passeur, 1963.
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French art critic Miguel Ragon writes about Antonio Berni’s engraving technique, as well as the question of narrative in his work with regard to the development of his chief characters: Juanito Laguna and Ramona Montiel.
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 exhibition in Paris, Antonio Berni et les aventures de Ramona Montiel [Antonio Berni and the Adventures of Ramona Montiel] served as Berni’s inaugural solo presentation in Europe; it occurred immediately after his [reputation] was established by his Juanito Laguna series in 1962 at the XXXI International Biennale of Art in Venice. In the case of the French exhibition, Berni presented a new narrative personality, Ramona Montiel, through the xilo-collage relief technique. Ramona Montiel was a woman from the poor side of town who worked as a prostitute. The exhibition was introduced by the French critic Michel Ragon, who had interviewed the artist for Arts magazine after Berni’s success in Venice.Besides art critic, Michel Ragon (1924-2008) was also a scholar in art history of the proletarian class who wrote novels on social issues; that is, Aragon shared views with Berni around themes of his interest as displayed in Berni’s works.