Plástica, Liga Estudiantes de Arte (San Juan, Puerto Rico). -- No. 7 (Jul. 1981)
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Puerto Rican historian Margarita Fernández Zavala gives a short history of the beginnings of the Hermandad de Artistas Gráficos de Puerto Rico [Puerto Rican Brotherhood of Graphic Artists] in 1981. She writes this article in response to the refusal by a sizable group of Puerto Rican artists to participate in the V Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano [5th San Juan Biennial of Latin American Graphic Art]. The artists organized a parallel exhibition in protest against the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP), the body that had organized the biennial. These artists objected to the ICP’s growing politicization and adoption of ideological anexionismo [the movement that favors Puerto Rican statehood]. Their parallel event, the Sala de Gráfica Puertorriqueña [Puerto Rican Graphic Art Hall], included 95 works by 56 artists and represented practically all graphic techniques. This exhibition allowed the artists to make a constructive protest against the ICP’s politicized administration, rather than against the biennial itself. Knowing that the exchange among Latin Americans was essential, the artists never considered the dissolution of the biennial. Some of the artists who participated in this exhibition were Luis Hernández Cruz, Rafael Tufiño, Myrna Báez, Antonio Martorell, José Alicea, José Rosa, Rafael Rivera Rosa, Nelson Sambolín, Consuelo Gotay, Luis Alonso, Susana Herrero, and José Antonio Torres Martinó, among others.
The Biennial de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano was one of the most important events held in the Caribbean region, given that it fostered an exchange of ideas and contact among different artists. The first of these biennials was organized by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña [Institute of Puerto Rican Culture] (ICP) in 1970. Printmaking was selected because it was a form of expression that was widely practiced by Puerto Rican artists, who were producing very high quality work. In 1986, “y del Caribe” [and Caribbean] was added to the name of the biennial so it could include that geographic area in the event. Parallel to this change, the biennial included two exhibitions to recognize artists’ work: one to honor a Puerto Rican artist and the other to honor a foreign artist.
The artists honored at the V Bienal were Manuel Hernández Acevedo (Puerto Rico) and Roberto Matta (Chile).
Plástica magazine, where this review was published, was an art publication that appeared fairly regularly in Puerto Rico. It began modestly enough in 1968, as the newsletter of the Liga de arte de San Juan [San Juan Art League], but changed its name in 1978 to Plástica revista de la Liga de estudiantes de San Juan [San Juan Student League Visual Arts Magazine]. Its very specific title notwithstanding, the twenty-one issues of the magazine explored a wide range of subjects within the broad parameters of Puerto Rican and Latin American art, filling its pages with retrospective coverage of subjects, such as the V Bienal de San Juan del grabado latinoamericano y del Caribe [5th San Juan Biennial of Latin American and Caribbean Prints] (1981), Puerto Rican architecture, and Latin American visual arts. The first editorial board of the magazine included Hélène Saldaña, Delta Picó, Cordelia Buitrago, and J.M. García Segovia. In addition to the many essays written by top Puerto Rican thinkers, the magazine published contributions from some of the leading Latin American artists and critics, such as Luis Camnitzer, Damián Bayón, Jacqueline Barnitz, Samuel Cherson, Joseph Alsop, Omar Rayo, and Ricardo Pau Llosa, among many others.