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Antonio Berni writes about the history of art from the nineteenth century on, and Nuevo Realismo [New Realism], which breaks with Argentine art that looks to Europe.
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. This document is important for an analysis of the genealogy of Berni’s work and for the historical vision of art, its development, and modernization. Here, Berni develops the concept of “derivative art” in Latin America and speaks of the need to create a medium capable of gaining autonomy for art from the region. In this sense, Berni’s formulation of Nuevo Realismo—which is not the same as French “nouveau réalisme”—is an attempt to give impetus to this autonomy by specifically heeding Latin American geographic and social reality. It is, therefore, a basically apolitical strain of realism that overwhelmingly places emphasis on “humanism.”