The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
This is an account of the occasion when Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, a member of the ruling military junta, visited the Galerías Pacífico in Buenos Aires in 1978, to observe the mural restoration project in which Antonio Berni was engaged.
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. Since the 1930s, Antonio Berni had been perceived as the most political voice in Argentine artistic circles. A little-studied facet of his life, however, concerns his actions during the military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-83). Marta Traba, the critic, accused Berni of collaborating with the military regime because of the retrospective presented in 1977 by the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas.
This document reveals the policy of the oppressor, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, towards Antonio Berni, suggesting an official culture of greater complexity within the military dictatorship, whose repressive nature is generally simplified. Berni accepted all the honors being awarded at the time, from being inducted into the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1979, to appearing on the catalogue covers of official exhibitions. Berni was also accorded funeral honors by the dictatorship in 1981. This connection can be explained by, among other things, the policy of the Communist Party of Argentina, which did not oppose the military coup.