Alejandro Otero (1921–90) had his first individual exhibition at the Pan-American Union in the United States’ capital on December 28, 1948. He presented 23 oil paintings under the title Alejandro Otero: Still-life, Themes and Variations. The brief Washington, D.C., exhibition took place before presenting another more extensive exhibition in the Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas (January 1949) where he exhibited his series Las Cafeteras. At that moment, José Gómez-Sicre (1916−91), the writer, museologist and Cuban art critic, headed the Visual Arts Unit of the Panamerican Union, subsequently known as the OAS (Organization of American States). Gómez-Sicre was crucial to the dissemination of Latin American art in the United States in the 1940s due to the political interest of North American in having consensus throughout the continent through the concept of “pan-Americanism.”
Gómez-Sicre was one of the first internationally recognized critics to write about Otero, analyzing the artist’s work it in the context of Western contemporary art. Gómez-Sicre understood that the Venezuelan avant-garde began with the transfer of a number of young Venezuelan artists to Paris beginning in the mid-1940s and culminating in 1950 with the creation of the group Los Disidentes.The movement, which was both a generational and artistic one, was defined by a common interest in abstraction. Compared with some of the writings produced in Venezuela on Otero’s Las Cafeteras series, Gómez-Sicre’s text is exemplary for the broad approach he follows in offering an unbiased perspective on the ideas and experiences of Otero as well as of the other young Venezuelan artists then living in the French capital. The essay is also commendable in how Gómez-Sicre accommodates guidelines of art criticism as well as art history. Although referring to the exhibition in Washington, Gómez-Sicre’s article was published in Venezuelan newspapers. In fact, in 1949, El Nuevo Diario published it in Caracas on August 28 under the title of “Alejandro Otero, pintor venezolano, en la Unión Panamericana.” It was subsequently reproduced in Douglas Monroy’s anthology Alejandro Otero ante la crítica (Caracas: Ternium-Sidor/Artesanogroup, 2006).