A ‘revision’ of Antonio Caro’s formative period : 1970—1976
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This thesis will examine the conceptual strategies articulated by a corpus of six works created within the first seven years of Colombian conceptual artist Antonio Caro’s career (1970-1976.) The works—Cabeza de Lleras (1970) [Head of Lleras], Aqui no cabe el arte (1972) [Art Does Not Fit Here], Manuel Quintín Lame información y variación visual (1972) [Manuel Quintín Lame, Information and Visual Variation], El imperialismo es un tigre de papel (1973) [Imperialism is a Paper Tiger], Colombia—Marlboro (1973-1975), and Colombia—Coca-Cola (1976)—despite stressing dematerialization, displaying simple designs, and communicating concise messages addressing political and cultural issues that are tied to a historical and geographic specificity, have been repeated until acquiring an iconic status. As a crucial tactic that is central to Caro’s work, this thesis will analyze both the advantages and disadvantages inherent in the strategy of repetition and how these have altered or enhanced the meaning of the works through time. Furthermore, five out of the six works in question employ text in a very particular way that results from Caro’s keen awareness of the visual potential of words. Likewise, they display anti-conventionalisms particularly with regards to the implementation of informal procedures (i.e. photocopying, posters, art actions, etc…) and the utilization of precarious materials (i.e. salt) that are often charged with historical meanings; the inherent short-lived nature of the materials used by Caro also points to the ephemeral quality of his production and to the rejection of the notion of art as a commodity. Finally, the works enact institutional critique on two fronts: they criticize the art institution from within, while simultaneously denouncing the politics of the state apparatus and the hegemonic values imposed by the dominant sectors of society. All in all, the salient features present in these six works point to Caro’s commitment to his environment while also contributing to the development of contemporary Colombian art.