This essay by the Colombian critic and art curator Eduardo Serrano Rueda (b. 1939) introduces the largest solo exhibition that the artist Álvaro Barrios (b. 1945) had ever had since he began showing his work in 1965. The Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá organized the exhibition Álvaro Barrios in March 1977—curated by Serrano—that included: the “boxes” that recall the nativity cribs that originally inspired Barrios to be an artist; the series of prints of San Sebastián atado a la columna de estrellas [Saint Sebastian Tied to a Column of Stars] (1977); his drawings based on the paintings Virgen de la silla [The Madonna of the Chair] (1513-1514) by the Renaissance painter Rafael Sanzio (1483-1520) and Ofelia by the British painter John Everett (1829-1896), and his Grabados populares [Traditional Prints]. The latter series catapulted the young Barrios to national fame in 1972 when he announced that a set of advertising illustrations (drawn to promote the sale of Colombian coffee) were in fact original prints that he would sign for free. This stunt introduced him to the practice of Mail Art, as he received prints by mail from all over the country and abroad with requests that he sign and number them. The prints in question appeared in the Argentine newspaper Hojas volantes and in the Diario del Caribe in Barranquilla, Colombia.
On February 27, 1977, on the occasion of the exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá, Barrios published the largest run of one of his prints—230.000 copies of San Sebastián atado a la columna de estrellas—in the Sunday edition of El Espectador, a newspaper with a huge national circulation.
In the 1970s Barrios was taking part in international events such as the Cracow Biennial (1976), the Sao Paulo Biennial (1975), the Tokyo Biennial (1974), and the Paris Biennial (1971). The design for the exhibition catalogue was a joint effort produced by the artist and Luis Fernando Zapata, a designer at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá. The catalogue was designed to look like a children’s story book, with a relief drawing on the center page that could be assembled into a “box” that provided another way to circulate the work.
Eduardo Serrano published a great number of articles in catalogues and national periodicals during the 1970s, and organized exhibitions (especially for young artists) at the Galería Belarca from 1969 through 1974. Gloria Zea de Uribe appointed him as curator of the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá, where he worked from 1974 until 1994.