Intrepid iconoclasts and ambitious institutions : early Colombian conceptual art and its antecedents, 1961-1975
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While ambitious art museums, biennials, galleries, curators, and critics promoted early Colombian conceptual art and its antecedents as being part of the latest international art trends, the intrepid iconoclasts who created it were not at all interested in being au courant or international. Far from it, their primary focus was on addressing local issues and audiences. They had an ambivalent relationship to institutions, taking advantage of internationalization, which was part of a strategy for cultural and economic development. But these artists did so in order to insert their own tactics emerging from, and dealing with, the realities of underdevelopment. Artists such as Antonio Caro, Jorge Posada, and Efraín Arrieta--developing approaches first introduced by antecedents like Bernardo Salcedo, Feliza Bursztyn, and Beatriz González--sought to open the viewers' eyes to the concrete experience of the here-and-now through the use of usually banal and often ephemeral materials and techniques. They focused critically on social issues--nationalism, education, imperialism, agrarian inequity, governmental policy, and political organization. In taking on specific, timely, and usually local matters dealing with culture, politics, the economy, and social organization, they sought to upset the prevailing conditions outside as well as inside the realm of art. Even the introduction of new forms and ways of producing art should be seen as an ideological rather than a formal exercise since it constituted a cultural assault against the Colombian ruling class. This art, then, was political: it was motivated by beliefs regarding the public affairs of a country. I argue that early Colombian conceptual art was a visual means of exposing institutional strategies of control. I show how this art partook of the spirit of participation which marked the late 1960s and early 1970s in Colombia and in the world. In the process, I add to the understanding of this tumultuous period in world history, since my study is an example of the complex processes of cultural production in an age of globalization.