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In this article, Alirio Rodríguez discusses the definition and scope of Latin American painting, and its universal exposure. He stresses the importance of Figuration and Abstraction, both of which influence current and future painting in the Americas. In his remarks about Venezuelan art, Rodríguez contradicts Marta Traba’s thesis about the “depersonalization” of Latin American art by identifying certain artists whose art has universal qualities, but also reflects aspects of a particular nationality.  


This article by Alirio Rodríguez (b. 1934), the Venezuelan painter, played a role in the spirited debate sparked by the long essay written by Marta Traba, the Argentinean critic, entitled “El arte latinoamericano: un falso apocalipsis” [ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 799377)], published on May 2, 1965 in the Papel Literario, the literary supplement of the Caracas newspaper El Nacional. The discussion continued until September in this Sunday supplement and in the Revista Nacional de Cultura. During the course of the debate, Traba was invited to Venezuela to give three lectures at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas. While she was in town, there were radio and TV appearances and a final round of the debate at the Ateneo de Caracas. The major participants, other than Rodríguez and Traba, were the painter Alejandro Otero, the critics Roberto Guevara and Perán Erminy, and J. R. Guillent Pérez and Ludovico Silva.


This document is interesting because it quotes someone who, in a sense, represents the voice of all the Venezuelan artists who radically disagreed with Traba’s ideas, especially her accusation that our art had blended with European and North American styles. Rodríguez believes that “Latin American art” can be part of the universal current without forfeiting any of its identity. It should be noted that the only two artists who participated in the debate by writing articles were Otero and Rodríguez, since both of them had “universalist” leanings. In the latter’s article, it is interesting to see his extensive grasp of contemporary art, making no distinction between languages or movements. Not being a Figurative painter, he applauds Venezuelan contributions to a universal movement, as in the case of Kinetic art, which incidentally was one of Traba’s favorite targets.


The articles that appeared in the Papel Literario were collected and published in the book Modernidad y postmodernidad. Espacios y tiempos dentro del arte latinoamericano (Caracas: Colección Delta Solar / Museo Alejandro Otero, 2000). A selection of the documents that appeared in the Revista Nacional de Cultura were assembled by Roldán Esteva-Grillet (compiler) and published in the second volume of Fuentes documentales y críticas de las artes plásticas venezolanas. Siglos XIX y XX (Caracas: CDCH/ Universidad Central de Venezuela, 2001).

María Elena Huizi No 70
Fundación Mercantil, Caracas, Venezuela
Biblioteca Isaac J. Pardo.  CELARG, Centro de estudios latinoamericanos Rómulo Gallergos, Av. Luis Roche, con 3ra, Transv., Altamira, Caracas, 58-212-2852721,