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    Arte y realidad / Marta Traba


    Intermedio [El Tiempo] (Bogotá). -- Jul. 25, 1956
    Newspaper article – Essays
    Traba, Marta. "Arte y realidad." Intermedio [El Tiempo] (Bogotá, Colombia), July 25, 1956.

In this text, Marta Traba argues that the understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of art are hindered by the common idea that it is comparable to reality. She defends the notion that art must be understood as an autonomous reality, which due to its many facets, cannot be compared to nature. She also claims that the artist is a creator who with absolute freedom and subjectivity, must respond to aesthetic values determined by the formal elements of the work, and by the ability to transcend local history and its concerns, in order to become universal. Traba warns against a reductionist position that relates art to reality, insisting on the need to see the power of creative genius in artists of all times as they make use of formal aesthetic resources (color, line, composition, rhythm, and atmosphere) to produce their art.


In the article “Arte y realidad,” Argentine art critic and historian Marta Traba (1923–1983), who lived in Bogotá for a time, argues for the need to produce knowledge of art, and to support it as an autonomous discipline; she opposes aesthetic language to the narrative codes of nature and reality. Later, this line of thought would appear in a set of arguments that formed the basis for a formalist criticism in which Traba praised a group of artists whose work furthered an internationalist conception of art ostensibly opposed to the nationalist legacy of Mexican muralism. 

Traba arrived in Colombia in September of 1954, and this article is one of a set of writings published in 1956 and 1957 in the newspaper Intermedio. In these articles, Traba discusses problems related to a specific artist, work, or exhibition, and also the theoretical concepts that formed the basis for her thinking during the second half of the fifties. Crucial to these texts as a whole is Traba’s insistence on the autonomy of the visual arts, and the need to separate artistic production and criticism from other disciplines and discourses. Traba asks artists and critics to consider strictly visual elements as the essential means and ends of works of art and the aesthetic judgments that determine those works. 

Intermedio, where this article was published, was the name given to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo from August 1955 to May 1957, at the time it was closed down by a censorship order issued by then dictator General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (1900–1975). Other articles by Traba published in Intermedio include:“Historias de islas”, (see doc. no. 855005), “El genio anti-servil” (doc. no. 1052760), “Arte y mitología” (doc. no. 1052787), and “Naturaleza: vocabulario de la realidad artística” (doc. no. 858558).


Nicolás Gómez
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of Fernando Zalamea Traba, Bogotá, Colombia.
Courtesy of Casa Editorial El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia