This pamphlet documents one of the first times that Álvaro Barrios (b. 1945) had shown his work and been interviewed since he began exhibiting in about 1965. The design of the pamphlet created to introduce the exhibition of drawings and sketches reveals the trademark demythologizing nature of this artist’s work. The exhibition was held on October 1-15, 1968 at the Marta Traba bookstore/gallery, the space that the art critic created to host exhibitions, sell books, and give literature classes. Aseneth Velásquez (1942-2003), one of Traba’s students, worked with her during the gallery’s brief one-year existence. According to press reports, Barrios attended the opening of the exhibition wearing a black tie with a white design as a sign of mourning for the recent death of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), who influenced Barrios’ conceptual work to such an extent that he dedicated an entire period of his production to the late artist.
The technique, mentioned in the interview, that was used to transfer comic strip frames—some of which were created by Barrios—to the rough canvas is called the “magic lantern,” an optical predecessor to the movie camera. In his replies to the interviewer’s questions, Barrios reveals a good grasp of history for someone so young: he was barely 22 years old at the time. This is no doubt due to the fact that he studied art history at the University of Perugia and the Fondazione Giorgio Cini de Venecia (both of which are in Italy), plus, of course, his art training at the Escuela de Bellas Artes [School of Fine Arts] in Barranquilla and his architectural studies at the Universidad del Atlántico.
Barrios’ religious education in high school and his fondness for drawing, comic strips (such as Dick Tracy and Superman), and children’s stories had a marked influence on his early collages. In 1965 he was awarded second prize at the Concurso Internacional de Pintura Dante Alighieri [Dante Alighieri International Painting Competition] sponsored by the Italian Embassy in Colombia. His submission, Comedia was a “Pop” collage that, according to contemporary art critics included photos of movie actresses and musical bands. As a result of that competition he went to Italy in 1967.
Álvaro Barrios has been working on creative projects for over forty years. He opened an art gallery in Barranquilla in the 1970s; he wrote articles for a number of trade magazines; and, in 1999 his book Orígenes del arte conceptual en Colombia [The Origins of Conceptual Art in Colombia] won the prize for historical, theoretical, or critical essays on Colombian art, sponsored by the Mayor’s Office in Bogotá.
Barrios states that he and the interviewer Mireille Spagnou studied art history together in Venice, and that the interview took place in Paris, as stated in the document.