This essay by the Venezuelan curator and critic Luis Enrique Pérez-Oramas (b. 1960) is required reading for those who would gain a better understanding of modern and contemporary Venezuelan art. The author proposes undertaking a new critical reading of the paradigmatic moments chronicled in the history of twentieth-century Venezuelan art. In his thesis, Pérez-Oramas proposes the creation of a network of communication vessels between movements and artists, linking them in terms of analogies regarding their formal, conceptual, and expressive characteristics rather than on the basis of continuity in historical time. He goes on to suggest that a tendency toward the “anecdotization of forms” throughout the development of Venezuelan art prompted the emergence of exceptional artists such as Armando Reverón and Gego.
One of the key themes of Pérez-Oramas’ thesis is his critique of Kinetic art (in its Venezuelan incarnation), which he classifies as the product of the “strong thinking” of Venezuelan modern art, as distinct from the “weak thinking” which fostered the resurgence (the ritornello, as it were) of the poverty and limitations of our school of landscape painting that was, in his opinion, recycled by a group of contemporary artists. “What these artists have wrought,” he says, “almost as an impotent, sarcastic gesture, a dirty, badly assembled, impure gesture that should be interpreted in terms of Kinetic ‘purity,’ is a dramatic, deconstructive work of ‘riparography’ vis-à-vis modernity. As Pliny reminded us, the ‘megalographer’—the painter of grandiose subjects, the artist of mighty works—is confronted by the painter of trivial, insignificant, corruptible, low, coarse, despicable things: the ‘riparographer’.”
Pérez-Oramas’ opinion concerning the neo-constructive tradition, and especially concerning Kinetic art, coincides, perhaps involuntarily, with Marta Traba’s ideas on Venezuelan art as from the 1950s. The difference between them is that Pérez-Oramas addresses the question from the perspective of visual forms, whereas Traba takes a more sociological view. In her essay “Venezuela. Cómo se forma una plástica hegemónica” (1974), Traba states that “Los Disidentes and the landscape painters of the Círculo [de Bellas Artes] are separated by a radically modified existential approach rather than by the usual generation gap with its corresponding and desirable ruptures.” Pérez-Oramas, for his part, claims that his country is developing according to the “novel” syndrome of rupture and a radical rejection of continuity; in addition to establishing itself as the official face of Venezuelan art, however, he posits that the neo-constructive tradition produced a sort of academic continuity in Venezuela.
The exhibition La invención de la continuidad (Caracas: Galería de Arte Nacional, 1997) was jointly curated by the author of this essay and the researcher Ariel Jiménez, who wrote the other essay in the catalogue (“Tradición y ruptura”).