Articles like this one, while of strictly local interest, provide an overview of a specific scene. In this case the review sheds light on the Venezuelan art milieu—focusing on a new generation of creators who, at the time, were beginning to make a name for themselves as “acclaimed” artists—and on the decision makers in the community. The list of names of the people who awarded the prizes and served on the jury shows that the cultural institutions at the time were in the hands of prominent members of the earliest wave of Venezuelan modernity whose main task consisted of creating a sense of national identity inspired by the local landscape and the country’s ideal inhabitants. The 1950s saw the clash that led to the emergence of Geometric Abstraction in the following years, as well as the ties that bound the two trends, with the landscape movement creating the ideal, almost Eden-like environment in which to build the modern country that all Venezuelans dreamed of at that time (with artists who had embraced Geometric Abstraction at the forefront). Protagonists of that first wave of modernity, such as Arturo Uslar Pietri in literature and Alfredo Boulton in the field of photography, awarded prizes to the future abstract and Kinetic artists, representing the bonds that linked artists and their works.
This brief newspaper review underscores the fact that the Venezuelan art world in the 1950s was tiny, with a handful of families dominating the country’s art scene. This is made clear by the repetition of the names of the people handing out the prizes and serving on the jury and, ironically, of artists who were either members of those families or were somehow connected to them. The Zuloagas and the Brandts awarded prizes, were members of the jury, and were artists. The Boultons, the Pietris, and the Vollmers were related and were close friends of the Rohls, and so on.
It is interesting to consider the conflicts the young Cruz-Diez was grappling with in those days when we note that he was awarded a prize for his “meticulous landscape” just two years before producing his first abstract works in 1954, at a time when his classmates were launching their architectural studies at the Universidad Central de Venezuela with works of Geometric Abstract art. These inner conflicts are ignored by the article, which indicates that the art scene at the time was dominated by the landscape painting that had been inherited from the first half of the twentieth century and, incidentally, practiced by some members of the jury (Manuel Cabré, Pedro Ángel González, and Rafael Ramón González, among others) and prizewinning artists (Carlos Cruz-Diez and Elisa Elvira Zuloaga).