The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this article, Mario Briceño Iragorry, a historian and journalist from Caracas, reflects on the traditional value placed on religious bells, over foreign novelties, such as abstract painting. He juxtaposes his “primitive and simple tastes” for landscape art and the representation of human drama—with the “gentry’s” or country club frequenter’s preference for abstraction—which he describes as snobbery. After taking into account that “one leaves an exhibition of abstract art with an empty head and a shattered heart,” he concludes by comparing traditionalism to nationalism.
Venezuelan writer and politician Mario Briceño Iragorry (1897–1958) wrote on various occasions about art, including about the distinctive features of indigenous ceramics, the value of abstraction, and colonial art. His defense of tradition (Catholicism and Spanish culture) led him to espouse conservative positions about art, above all with regard to newer trends. This defense of the traditional values of representative art especially surface in this article as he mocks new art and accuses its creators of “nonsense” and even of “sinning against the nation.” Briceño Iragorry rejects both abstract art and gum because they are foreign; like the carillons that try to substitute for the traditional ringing of the bells in churches; he is opposed to socially conscious art, preferring pure art to that which denies the possibility for expressing any emotion. His stance of condemnation toward writers that praised this new art reveals a belief common in a great part of the Venezuelan public at the time for whom abstraction seemed foreign and sophisticated, without any ties to the reality of the nation. The article by Briceño Iragorry has its origin in the first exhibition of abstract art held at the Galería Cuatro Muros, led by Mateo Manaure and Carlos González Bogen, both former members of Los Disidentes group (Paris, 1950), who were exponents of this art.
The article was challenged by painter Alejandro Otero in “Alejandro Otero polemiza con Mario Briceño Iragorry a propósito del arte abstracto” [see ICAA digital archive (doc. no. 855479)], starting a second debate in Venezuela on this topic, after the one held in 1948 between Miguel Arroyo and César Rengifo. Other artists and writers participated, such as Manuel Quintana Castillo and Ida Gramcko (in favor) or, as been observed in this text, Juan Vicente Fabbiani and Héctor Mujica (against).
The article by Briceño Iragorry continues in “Segunda nota sobre abstraccionismo” (doc. no. 1172069), wherein he expands on his ideas. Both articles by Briceño Iragorry also appear in his book El hijo de Agar (Caracas: Ediciones Independencia, 1954), and later compiled by Roldán Esteva-Grillet in his Fuentes documentales y críticas de las artes plásticas venezolanas: siglos XIX y XX (Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela, 2001).