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Puerto Rican artist José A. Torres Martinó tells a story about the VIII Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano y del Caribe [8th San Juan Biennial of Latin American and Caribbean Graphic Art], held in 1988. At the inauguration, a young man wearing glasses and carrying a blind man’s cane circulated among the crowd wearing a card with the word “JURY” on his jacket lapel. In the writer’s opinion, the intention of the “ciego” [blind man] at this art exhibition was to “censurar rotundamente la labor de los jueces” [emphatically censure the work of the judges], who conferred seven $1,000 prizes during the event. Both juries—the Selection Jury and the Prize Jury—stirred up a great deal of displeasure and indignation among the artists.
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 VIII Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano (1988) garnered a great deal of criticism from the artists. They questioned the process of selecting works and the prizes awarded. So many artists criticized the event that they even discussed holding a Salon des Refusés [Salon of the Rejected], as was customary in French art in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Selection Jury was made up of Gloria Delgado Restrepo of the Museo La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia; Vasilius Tulis, a professor at Pratt Institute in New York; and Jaime Romano, a Puerto Rican artist. The Prize Jury was made up of art critics, Bélgica Rodríguez from Venezuela; Raquel Tibol from Mexico; Nelly Perazzo from Argentina; Simón Marchán Fiz from Spain; and artists, Liliana Porter and Mauricio Lasonsky, from Argentina; and Jaime Carrero from Puerto Rico.
For more information about the VIII Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano y del Caribe check up the following titles: “La más alta competencia y calidad artística” [The Highest Competence and Artistic Quality] by Enrique García Gutiérrez (see doc. No. 852827) and “Una Bienal que peca por defecto” [A Biennial that Did too Little] by Samuel B. Cherson (doc. No. 852846).