Caio Ruvenal reports for Opinion:
Interview with the author of the book Painting in Bolivia in the XXth Century (BBB) that is presented, in a second revised and expanded edition, next Thursday 23 at the Melchor Pinto Cultural Center in Santa Cruz.
In 1989, the Banco Hipotecario Nacional, celebrating its centenary, launched the book Bolivian Painting in the 20th Century, published by the Italian publisher Jaca Book and written by the historian and art critic Pedro Querejazu. The work had a scope greater than expected, becoming a mandatory reference on national plastic. It was the only specialized study on painting, coming to be included in a list of the 100 most important works produced in Bolivia, according to a survey published in the supplement Tendencias de La Razón, in 2014.
29 years later, after being one of the most requested works, the Bicentennial Library of Bolivia (BBB) publishes a second revised and expanded version, which includes as a novelty the visual artistic production of the last 30 years, with the emergence of contemporary art , and that, at the same time, revisits the cultural expressions of the prehispanic period. With the accuracy and bibliographic support of a historian, Querejazu relates the social imaginary materialized in the plastic arts from the pre-colonial period, emphasizing the last century and the first two decades of the present.
In the framework of his academic work, the author teaches the feeling of a country under the relationship artist-work-space-time, exhibiting in the most objective way possible the plastic production made, leaving the reader a free interpretation and further studies on the topic. New languages, the appearance of own scenarios for their sample, the coexistence between the modern and traditional, and the contribution of women artists are some of the novelties that this second version brings.
The work will be presented on Thursday, May 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Melchor Pinto Cultural Center in Santa Cruz (Sucre Street No. 50); In addition, on the 26th of the same month an itinerant exhibition will be opened based on the book, in the also Santa Cruz Plaza Manzana Uno (Independencia street between Ingavi and Ayacucho), which can be visited until the 30th.
We share an interview with Querejazu, in which we talk about the changes for this edition, contemporary art as the main actor in this evolution and the direction of national art, as well as its history.
-In the introduction, you point out that the first edition, although carried out with academic rigor, was not intended to be a history book, but a source of general information. Now, in this second expanded version, revised and with a more experienced author, can you catalog Paint Bolivia in the 20th century as a scientific book?
It happens that the first edition was made with the intention of spreading an artistic material, but it was done with an academic rigor, with bibliographic content, editor’s notes and everything a text of these characteristics demands. We worked as academically as we can. The same was done with this second edition. The only caveat is that an attempt has been made to make a transaction between the amount of information and the possibilities of the content of the book.
-The main change that this second version has is the inclusion of contemporary art during the last 30 years. Has this branch eclipsed traditional visual arts or in what way do artists merge disciplines?
It has not been handled as a conflict, but as a phenomenon that has been modified and presented throughout the century. The fundamental change was to broaden the historical view in a longer time span. The first publication ran from 1800 to 1986, the year in which the edition of the book that was printed in 1989 was closed. There was a period at the end of the 20th century that was completely missing. The temporal delimitation was extended from the prehispanic scope, making reference to the survivals of textile art, plumerío and kerus, until 2017, providing data of active artists in full XXI century. It starts in a more than linear circular history towards the present.
-If there is something that is criticized to the new trend of the arts is the neglect of the form to give more strength to the message. As a critic and historian, from what position do you think contemporary art should be addressed? Are there parameters that allow you to value the aesthetic or should we pay more attention to the speech?
I did not want to participate in that conflict. I have been presented the mentalities of the time throughout the past century to the present, and how these mentalities have been presented. The introductory study (in the second edition) is much more extensive. The texts of the previous version added more or less 90 pages, the rest were 630 sheets. In this case, the body has 200 pages and has more than 1,000 illustrations. They have multiplied in quantitative terms, as qualitative.
-In the introduction also indicates that you can not think about art in Bolivia without its female artists. Which have marked the history of the national plastic?
I wanted to highlight the role of women artists. Then, I have emphasized the genre throughout the century, starting with Elisa Rocha de Ballivián and going through the generation of 52, with María Luisa Pacheco, and above all with the generation of young emerging artists, not with the majority of representation in the actors, but with great importance reflected in the last part. 60 percent of the selected works (of the last stage) was produced by female artists.
-Points out Potosí, Oruro and La Paz as the main centers of pictorial production. What role would Cochabamba play in the construction of national pictorial historiography?
I think the question is a reading between the lines. I have tried to make an analysis by regions, valuing the characteristics of the art made in each sector, there is no priority. There is a long section dedicated to art in Cochabamba. The feat of all the artists from Cochabamba is important, as it is presented in the book. I do not think there is a regionalism bias. There may be a greater concentration in the higher lands, as there are more artists and greater concentration.
-With the death of painters like Enrique Arnal, Ricardo Peréz Alcalá and Raúl Lara, a last generation of outstanding artists has been lost. Which do you think have been consecrated in this last century?
More than anything, it is about locating the producers in the generational moment to which they belong. Those that you mention, next to La Placa, are placed in the movement of 52, although they continued to carry out works until the 21st century.
-Some critics accuse the plastic of a stagnation, of turns in genres such as landscaping, realism, manners and indigenism. Do you agree with this statement?
I have tried to avoid the subject. I have exposed things so that people look at them, read them and appreciate them in their own way. I do not intend to assume the role of whether this is good or bad.
-Before, events such as the INBO Biennial allowed us to see what paths pictorial aesthetic currents were heading for. At present, what spaces, centers or activities allow to see the trend in painting at the national level?
The municipal art halls, such as Cochabamba and La Paz, continue to be active. They are still central references for art, but at the same time modern events have arisen, such as the International Visual Arts Biennial of Santa Cruz, SIART or BAU. I would say that there is a very intense activity that allows us to see things that are important and how they have been transformed, coexisting with the traditional.
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