Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (San Juan, Puerto Rico) No. 56 (Jul.-Sep., 1972)
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This essay by Argentine critic Marta Traba discusses Salmos [Psalms], the folder of verses by Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal with woodcuts by Puerto Rican artist Antonio Martorell. Traba praises this work, which she believes voices protest in a subtle and poetic fashion while mapping out a clear course of action for Latin American printmaking. She asserts that printmaking is an “attempt to recover language,” “to say and communicate things” (emphasis in the original) in order to formulate a certain vision of the world.
The 17-page folder Salmos [Psalms], which includes woodcuts by Antonio Martorell, and handwritten texts by Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaragua, b. 1925), was printed in 1971. The last page contains a letter from Ernesto Cardenal to Antonio Martorell in which he comments on the prints: “They are extremely somber and full of meaning. They are an art for demanding elites as well as the masses …” On this topic, see the essay, “Salmos, comentarios para la ubicación” [Psalms, Commentary for Location] by Fernando Cros (doc. No. 857700).
Marta Traba published a substantial number of articles in the various countries where she lived. When she arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she had previously lived in Bogota, New York, Paris, and Buenos Aires. From August 1970 through the summer of 1971, the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras engaged her to teach a course on Latin American art as well as the obligatory courses on the General Theory of Art History (201) and the History of Modern Art (213), among others, in the department of fine arts. In the summer of 1971, she taught a class on aesthetics. At the end of the summer, the University did not renew her contract. While she was living in Puerto Rico, Traba wrote books, and many newspaper and magazine articles, in which she expressed her views on Puerto Rican art, which prompted considerable response and criticism in art circles.
Antonio Martorell (Santurce, b. 1939) was trained at the Taller de Gráfica del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña [Puerto Rican Cultural Institute Print Workshop] under Lorenzo Homar. During his career, Martorell worked as a theater set and wardrobe designer, poster artist, printmaker, painter, book illustrator, professor, and writer. But, most importantly, he has been a graphic designer. In 1968, he founded the Taller Alacrán [Scorpion Workshop]—a workshop-art school devoted to criticizing Puerto Rican social conditions and politics—and managed it until 1971. In 1974 he was among the prize-winning artists at the III Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano [3rd San Juan Biennial of Latin American Prints]. Two years later, on the eve of the 4th Biennial he resigned from the jury because he was opposed to using funds from the United States bicentenary to finance the event. Multiple protests led to the cancellation of the 4th Biennial in 1976, and the event did not take place until 1979. Martorell was honored with a retrospective exhibition at the 7th Biennial in 1986. A year earlier the FBI raided his home as part of an attempt to arrest presumed members of Los Macheteros [the Machete Wielders], an underground revolutionary group that worked tirelessly to promote Puerto Rican independence.