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In June 1960, the exhibition, 3000 años de arte colombiano [3000 Years of Colombian Art], was held in Miami and Washington. The journal Lámpara [Lamp] (Bogotá, published 1952–85) printed a supplement with writings by the curators who performed the research for the event. The organizer of the contemporary art section of the exhibition, Marta Traba, wrote a short history of Colombian modern art. The history begins in the 1920s with four artists—Luis Alberto Acuña (1904–1984), Alipio Jaramillo (1913–1999), Ignacio Gómez Jaramillo (1910–1970), and Marco Ospina (1912–1983)—whom she calls los introductores [the pioneers]. Traba describes them as artists whose exposure to Mexican painting led them to break with the pictorial canons emanating from Spain’s Academia de San Fernando [San Fernando Academy]. They then introduced new concepts linked to Modern [art] languages into the Colombian art scene. In Traba’s opinion, for ten years, the introductores tended the soil so that (in 1940) a new generation of artists could rise up and break with precedent in search of aesthetic premises based on strictly pictorial values. Within this [latter] generation, she highlights the importance of Alejandro Obregón (1920–1992), Guillermo Wiedemann (1905–1969), Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar (1923–2004), and Fernando Botero (born 1932).


This article was written by the Argentine art critic and historian, Marta Traba (1923–1983), who settled in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1954. It is interesting as one of her first attempts to develop a hypothesis of Modern art history in Colombia. [Referring to] the framework in which her curatorial approach arose, and according to the introduction also written by her, the exhibition in Miami was “the first Colombian group exhibition on the international art scene.”  

Also interesting in this study is the objectivity proposed by Traba, a stance that leads her to acknowledge the value of the generation of artists that started creating art in the late 1920s. In other writings, Traba attacks this generation fiercely to support the idea that Modernity made its first appearance in Colombia on the canvases of Alejandro Obregón. It was the latter generation, she generally contends, that was able to introduce a new visual scenario in Colombia by breaking with the canons of the Spanish academies.  

This article is significant as well for the study of abstraction in Colombia; a footnote at the bottom of the page deems the artist, Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar, to be the initiator of abstract art in Colombia. What’s more, Traba explains the reasons why she does not accord that title to the painter Marco Ospina in connection with his abstract experiments in the late 1940s.


Julián Serna
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Fernando Zalamea Traba, Bogotá, Colombia
Courtesy of Revista Lámpara, Bogotá, Colombia