The Venezuelan historian, novelist, and diplomat Mariano Picón Salas (1901–65), together with other intellectuals such as Arturo Uslar Pietri, represented a new generation of liberal thinkers who challenged the positivist tradition that either rejected the values of the colonial period or saw European-indigenous miscegenation as a bad thing and, in the 1930s, called for a comprehensive understanding of Latin American culture.
It should be noted that in this document, which represents a humanist approach driven by liberal, democratic ideas, the author acknowledges indigenous reality as an “experience” while rejecting it as a “political slogan.” The essay is complemented by a “second article” that was published a week later, devoted exclusively to literary trends.
The appropriate position for the visual arts to take was one that tolerated all roots of Latin American culture—this has in fact been the predominant approach among critics and patrons—at least once Venezuela had rid itself of the authoritarian Juan Vicente Gómez regime (1908–35). It was actually in the final years of the dictatorship that artists such as Francisco Narváez and Alejandro Colina first showed an interest in painting scenes of public plazas that included “mulattos” (Plaza Carabobo, 1933) and Indians (Plaza del Aborigen de Tacarigua, 1934). The combination of racial subjects with an exaltation of national heroes, however, was promoted for nationalist purposes (as distinct from what Picón Salas says in his essay) two decades later, during the dictatorship of general Marcos Pérez Jiménez (1952–58). This de facto ruler awarded allegorical decorations to the painter Pedro Centeno Vallenilla (the Palacio Federal and the Círculo Militar).
That being the case, it should be noted that during that same period, in the early 1950s, the regime gave the architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva a free hand to decorate the Ciudad Universitaria in a way that would show off avant-garde modern works of art, in particular works of geometrical abstraction, in keeping with the functional lines of the project’s architectural design.