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The critic Samuel Cherson gives a historical account of the Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano y del Caribe [San Juan Biennial of Latin American and Caribbean Graphic Art]. He notes that the 7th Biennial (1986) opened 3 ½ years after the prior biennial (1983). The reason was the change in government after the 1984 elections and the resulting reforms carried out by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña [Institute of Puerto Rican Culture]. One change introduced was the name of the biennial, with the addition of “y del Caribe” [and Caribbean], which would now include English- and French-speaking countries. In the writer’s opinion, the most noteworthy change was the participation of Cuba, a country that had been sidelined from the previous biennials; Cuba sent a delegation of 20 artists to the 7th Biennial. Meanwhile, a new administration in Puerto Rico opened the way for the return of the Puerto Rican artists who had refused to participate in the 5th and 6th biennials. The reason for their refusal had been to show their disagreement with the leadership of the ICP [Institute of Puerto Rican Culture], and they resumed participation at the 7th Biennial. Cherson concludes his article with a criticism of the conservative, experiment-averse nature of the biennial. He recommends that they broaden the rules to allow more experimental techniques.
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 Selection Committee for the VII Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano y del Caribe [7th San Juan Biennial of Latin American and Caribbean Graphic Art] consisted of three Puerto Rican artists: Manuel García Fonteboa, Lope Max Díaz, and Jaime Romano. The International Prize Jury was made up of art critics Raquel Tibol from Mexico, Shifra M. Goldman from the United States, and Jorge Glusberg from Argentina; artists Antonio Frasconi from Uruguay and Marcos Irizarry from Puerto Rico; as well as the biennial directors, Herman Hebler from Norway, and Ryszard Otreba from the Krakow Biennial in Poland.
The essay by Goldman, “La Bienal de Artes Gráficas de Puerto Rico” [The Puerto Rican Graphic Arts Biennial] provides another point of view on this biennial (see doc. No. 852808).