This text is a dialogue between Raquel Tibol (b. 1923) and Colombian artist Leonel Góngora (1932–1999), both participants in Los interioristasor Nueva Presencia movementwhich attempted to effect innovation in Mexican art in the sixties. The interview was published in the catalogue to the exhibition La hipocresía o el gobierno del cuerpo: Proposiciones plásticas de Leonel Góngora (August 22-September 23, 1973) held at the Sala Verde of the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. That exhibition was particularly significant to Góngora’s career because it featured his environments Los ambientes de verdad, La recámara amorosa [The Love Chamber] and El cuarto de María, the third of which consisted of a bed and a mannequin representing Maria, the main character in La María, a groundbreaking romantic novel by Jorge Isaacs (1837–1895).
In Mexico, Góngora had the opportunity to participate in a group of intellectuals and young artists that opposed the precepts of the Mexican School of painting. From the time he arrived to that country in 1961, Góngora identified with the “rupturist” groups of artists active in Mexico starting in the fifties. These groups reacted against the dominant ideas of that time regarding Modern art and, mostly, against muralism, the hegemonic tendency in Mexico. Góngora joined the Nueva Presencia group, which was created in 1961, after seeing an exhibition featuring work by, among others, José Luis Cuevas (b. 1934), Francisco Icaza, Francisco Corzas (1936–1983), and photographer Nacho López (1923–1986). With Tibol’s support, Icaza, who was a self-taught painter, and Arnold Belkin (1930–1992) wrote the magazine-poster “Manifiesto Nueva Presencia del hombre en el arte moderno” [Manifesto of the New Presence of Man in Modern Art] (1961). Whether operating under the name Interioristas or Nueva Presencia, the group that adhered to that manifesto explored new figuration and formulated a humanist aesthetic reflection. It advocated a strain of art not indifferent to its time and the integration of the individual and the social environment. The group opposed the commercialization of art. Indeed, in this interview, which took place in the sixties, Góngora states that “my art is entirely anti-commercial. I teach to avoid having to make a living from my art.” Though starting in 1963 Góngora was a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, he traveled frequently to Colombia, among other places, in order to exhibit his work and to keep abreast of the cultural and socio-political situation in his country.