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 special article written in Mexico and published in the Colombian art magazine Plástica [Visual Arts], the Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida discusses the values and processes involved in pictorial abstraction. Mérida describes abstraction as part of what the artist does as he creates a work of visual art, mentally separating particular aspects of reality in order to transform them into the artistic event. Seen from that perspective, the values of an abstract work are inextricably rooted in the place and culture where it is produced; but above all, the separation of art from nature must not be expressed through a literary prism, and painting should always be understood in purely pictorial terms (structure, form, and color).
This article is of great interest because it grasps the range of responses to the arrival of modern art in Colombia in the 1950s. Some artists used local customs and materials to create their own kind of art; others focused on formal aspects to create art with a universal message. Carlos Mérida (1893–1984), a Guatemalan artist who lived in Mexico, sees a way to reconcile the two approaches at a theoretical level. He explains that abstraction arises from particular aspects of the surrounding reality which are then transformed into a “pictorial event” devoid of any literary narrative. This is an extremely important article because it allows Mérida to express the prevailing thoughts, questions, and experiments concerning the field of abstraction in Colombia. Pictorial abstraction first began to appear in Colombia during the 1950s in works by Marco Ospina (1912–1983), Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar (1923–2004), and Luis Fernando Robles (b. 1933), among others. Their experimentation with pictorial language was profoundly influenced by European artists such as Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Paul Klee (1879–1940), and Joan Miró (1893–1983), as well as Latin Americans like Rufino Tamayo (1899–1991), Wifredo Lam (1902–1982), and Mérida himself, all of whom were established artists, well respected in international circles. Plástica [Visual Arts] (1956–60), the magazine created and directed by the Colombian artist Judith Márquez (1925–1994), was the first Colombian publication devoted exclusively to the contemporary visual arts. It published translated articles from foreign magazines that discussed intellectual attitudes to abstraction in other countries. It also profiled local artists and reviewed exhibitions in Bogotá galleries.