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Antonio Berni writes about the creation of a fine arts academy in Rosario as a means for furthering the arts there; he analyzes the political and artistic disputes surrounding such a possibility.
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 1931, Berni returned to his native Rosario, a city in the province of Santa Fe, where he continued to produce Surrealist work while also taking photographs related to social issues (prostitution among them) that would prove central to his later production. In keeping with the notion of collective work formulated while David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974) was visiting Argentina, Berni played an active role, two years after his return to Rosario, in the formation of artists’ groups, specifically for the Ejercicio Plástico [Visual Exercise] (1933) project created in Don Torcuato. He also took part in founding the Mutualidad Popular de Estudiantes y Artistas Plásticos [Society of Students and Visual Artists], a teaching organization closely linked to the Communist Party. The debate surrounding the creation of a local art academy discussed in this document indicates the scope of the political activism fostered by Communism in the mid-thirties in relation to the cultural sphere. On a rhetorical level, this text is a “call to intellectuals” to improve the conditions surrounding modern art in Rosario, which Berni considered a first step in a debate that was both conceptual and political in nature.