In this article, the painter, dramatist, poet, journalist, and cultural promoter César Rengifo (1915–80) adopts a faithful, almost orthodox approach to blending Marxist doctrines with those of Social Realism, ardently identifying “realist art” as an instrument to be used in the transformative and liberating struggle waged by the oppressed masses. He discusses the ideological tension that exists between realism and abstraction. It could be said that, after writing this article, Rengifo became a leading exponent of Venezuelan social realism, a movement he defended and promoted with considerable zeal both at a theoretical level (as can be seen in this document) and in his visual art and his writing. It took some time for Mexican muralism to arrive in Venezuela, but its influence is very clear in Rengifo, since he knew those works first hand from when he was at the Academia San Carlos de México (1938–39). It is therefore interesting to note his acknowledgment of Abstract art—whose axiology was appropriated by the Mexican muralists—toward the end of this article, where he recognizes the usefulness of some of that movement’s formal values.
This article contributes to the controversy between Figurative and Abstract art. In fact it expresses one perspective of that debate, in which the opposite view, in defense of Abstract art, was expressed by Miguel Arroyo in his article “Realismo y abstraccionismo, confusión de términos,” which was published in the newspaper El Nacional on September 13, 1948 [see 813807]. Both articles were written as a result of the debates at the Centro Venezolano–Soviético in July and August of that same year on the subject of “Realism in Art.” It should be noted that, at the time this article was written, Venezuela was enjoying a brief spell of democracy (between dictatorships) during the writer Rómulo Gallegos’ term that was violently interrupted by another military coup. As was to be expected, this democratic respite provided an opportunity for the exercise of civil liberties and spirited debates at every level of critical thought.
To read other documents about this artist’s work, see the journalist Silvia Coronil’s interview in which Rengifo talks about the CONAC [Consejo Nacional de la Cultura] prize he was awarded, “El arte y la política vistos por César Rengifo. En entrevista exclusiva con ‘Tribuna Popular’” ; the essayist Jorge Nunes’ interview “César Rengifo: el retorno a las raíces” ; and Irma Valero’s interview “César Rengifo: ‘No hay arte sin ideología’” ; the essay by Pedro Beroes “Viva memoria de César Rengifo” , José María Salvador’s “César Rengifo. El drama humano” , and José Ratto Ciarlo’s “Retrospectiva de César Rengifo 1931?1974” . See also Rengifo’s articles “Del abstraccionismo a un nuevo realismo. Presente y porvenir de la pintura” , and “Verdades y mentiras del abstraccionismo” .