In “Génesis de una idea,” Colombian Conceptual artist Álvaro Barrios (born 1945) provides a brief overview of his work until the year of the article’s publication (1981). Particularly significant is his work’s professed connection to contemporary Conceptual art and the role it plays in each of the pieces Barrios discusses in the text. He considers the intentions and processes that have been central throughout his production. His remarks on the series “Sueños de Marcel Duchamp” [Marcel Duchamp’s Dreams], as well as his experiments based on The Large Glass, are crucial to this text. Indeed, the text itself could be called a conceptual formulation of Barrios’s work.
Barrios is known for his ties to Conceptual art, not only in relation to his artistic production, but also to his work in theory, cultural administration, and criticism. He studied art and architecture in Colombia and, in the late 1960s, traveled to Italy to study art history. His work is steeped in the language of comic strips, in the idea of collage, and in the experience of drawing—a form of expression which, Barrios states, is central to his work. Similarly central to the construction of Barrios’s thinking and, of course, his artistic production, is the influence of Duchamp. Some of Barrios’s works “reinvent” or reinterpret Duchamp; in those pieces, text is meaningful to the “work of art.”
Along with artist Bernardo Salcedo (1939–2007), Barrios is indisputably a key figure in Colombian Conceptualism, not only due to his visual production but also to his contributions to discourse on and criticism of Conceptualism in Colombia. In 2000, he published the book Orígenes del arte conceptual en Colombia 1968–1978 [Origins of Conceptual Art in Colombia], which features a series of interviews with critics and artists in order to compile ideas representative of Conceptualism in Colombia during the decade the book covers. Another important moment in his career was when, in 1968, he approached Marta Traba to discuss the possibility of organizing a show of Conceptual art together. That was the origin of Espacios ambientales [Environments],held at the Museo de Arte of the Universidad Nacional, the first exhibition of its sort ever held in Colombia. Artists in that show included sculptor Feliza Bursztyn (1933–1982), Santiago Cárdenas (born 1937), Bernardo Salcedo, Ana Mercedes Hoyos (born 1942), and Barrios.