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Synopsis

Berni himself wrote this text explaining the work, La masacre de los inocentes [The Massacre of the Innocents], whose origin, he says, goes back to nativity scenes. Berni also explains the aesthetic and political message of his work. This text was written on the occasion of the exhibition, La masacre de los inocentes at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris [presented] from November 23, 1971 to January 9, 1972.

 

Annotations

Antonio Berni (1905–81) is one of the most important Argentine artists in the twentieth century. Starting in 1925, he studied in Europe, settling in Paris where he came into contact with the Surrealist avant-garde and communist ideas. Upon returning to Argentina in 1932, he showed his Surrealist works at the Amigos del Arte [Friends of Art]. The following year, he joined the Equipo Polígrafo [Graphic Work Team] founded by David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974). That group made the mural, Ejercicio Plástico [Visual Exercise], in Don Torcuato on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. His Nuevo Realismo [New Realism] theory was based on the idea of a transcendent realism by means of politically and socially committed art.In 1944, he started the Taller de Arte Mural [Mural Art Workshop]. In the fifties, he made paintings about rural workers, especially those from Santiago del Estero, a province in northern Argentina. This gave rise to his narrative series of painting-collages on Juanito Laguna. In 1962, he was awarded the Grand Prize for Prints and Drawings at the Venice Biennale. The following year, Berni began working on a print series on Ramona Montiel. Though he continued working in the media of painting, collage, and printmaking, Berni (who was from Rosario, Argentina) also made objects, installations, and happenings in the sixties and seventies while exploring stylistic variations of figurative realism. 

In keeping with the growing Third World liberation movements, Berni made a number of works in 1971 that voiced political protest, among them Los rehenes [The Hostages] and La masacre de los inocentes. These works were included in the exhibition, Animation, Recherche, Confrontation [Animation, Research, [and] Confrontation] at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris.

This document, which formed part of the artist’s presentation at the exhibition in Paris, is essential to understanding Berni’s arguments in defense of the realist and aggressive aesthetic manifested in the objects in this environmental piece, La masacre de los inocentes. Here, Berni speaks unambiguously about his use of religious and working-class iconography as part of the transition toward political representation and representation of daily life. Although this text is about a specific work, its theoretical nature sheds light on the resolute politics in Berni’s thinking and on how his notion of “realism” changed to oppose new artistic movements. Berni’s concerns in this text revolve around pop culture and urban folklore, metaphysical inconsistency, individualism, sexology, and “neurotic violence.” It also contains a critical list of Argentine avant-garde movements in the late sixties and early seventies.

 

Researcher
Roberto Amigo
Team
Fundación Espigas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Location
Archivo Berni. Copia en Fundación Espigas (materiales especiales, carpetas Archivo Berni).