Some thoughts on Argentina in the 1970s

An exhibition exploring the relationship between art, revolution, and political resistance


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Politics / Economics

Organizing Institutions



Osvaldo Romberg


Henrique Faria Fine Art

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


0% Formal - 100% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce "Some thoughts on Argentina in the 1970s: historicizing the political in art," an exhibition on display from November 19-December 31, 2011. The exhibition features works by Margarita Paksa, Juan Carlos Romero, Horacio Zabala and Luis F. Benedit, and has been curated by Osvaldo Romberg.

In the 1940s, the clash between the Argentine left and the Peronists became more brutal. When Peron became president in 1946, he began persecuting leftist detractors. Despite the suspicion that the Peronist party had for communists and socialists, Argentine art was nevertheless deeply influenced by the left and the communist party. Important influences included the Mexican muralist movement, and artists like Siqueros, Rivera, and Orozco. As communists, they had an impact on Berni, Spilimbergo, Castanino, Urruchua and others. Important art critics of that period, like Lorenzo Varela and Enrique Azguaja, had fled Franco's Spanish civil war and were on the left. The cultural atmosphere of the 1940s and 1950s was anti-capitalist and it thrived even under Peron's repressiveness.

According to Osvaldo Romberg, the early 1960s saw the domination of two or three groups producing political art. The communist group -- including Berni, Castanino, Spilimbergo, and Urruchua -- were not only party members but activists who sold their work to fund communist activities. New disciples of this group appeared in the 1960s, including Carlos Alonso, Gonzales, Martinez Howard, and the sculptor Falchini, an important figure involved in a lot of activities. Another significant group influenced by the Mexican muralists was more populist and closer to Peronist ideas. That group, called Esparto, produced not large-scale murals but rather smaller works on easel. Among them were Carpani, Molari, Bute, and Sanchez. This second generation of political artists was successful in selling work to the Argentinean bourgeoisie. This paradigm changed under the influence of Romero Brest with Ver y Estimar, then as director of Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and finally as director of Instituto Di Tella. In these capacities, Brest introduced numerous European and American artists who worked in a more theoretical manner.

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General Ongania's ascent to power institutionalized the repression of intellectuals and the persecution of university professors and scientists. In 1968, Instituto Di Tella closed, and the Ciyc opened in Viamonte Street. This was a small place under the direction of Jorge Glusberg, where new theoretical explorations were brought together so as to support a new political art in Argentina.

Conceptual artists including Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, Mel Bochner, and Dennis Oppenheim, in visiting Argentina, influenced a new generation of artists who then began experimenting with text, poetry, architectural drawings, graphic design, linguistics, and structuralist methods. This work was less visually provocative and less apparently revolutionary. In fact, these new radical artistic strategies were a means to investigate the power structures embedded in the political system.

These artists included Luis Benedit, Horacio Zabala, Margarita Paksa, and Juan Carlos Romero. Their ideologies spanned a spectrum from bourgeois to Maoist, but they shared a hatred of the dictatorship. They reacted to the injustice of student assassinations and military abuse in different ways. Each of them provided a strong critique of the repressive system via metaphors, metonymy, and paradoxical comparisons.

Luis Benedit, trained as an architect, created environments and architectures for rats and insects, based on the idea of making a social system transparent. Zabala used architectural devices like drawings to create prisons for different kinds of people. Paksa drew precise designs which, combined with texts, enabled her to address the political situation. Romero remained closest to journalistic criticism, and used graphic design as a Trojan horse to investigate power relations.

Is it possible through very sophisticated and conceptual means to impact the political attitude of the people? The Russian Revolution had been driven by intellectuals like Trotsky and Lenin who had a powerful effect on the people.

The idea of intellectuals changing politics is still a question in Latin America. Most political change has resulted from action and not theories. Most political art has adopted a populist visual language in an effort to appeal to the emotions of the people; this was seen as opposed to an intellectual discourse of abstract ideas that couldn't reach the masses.

What is the value of a political narrative that is not going to be perceived and understood by the proletariat? This is a question that still today is discussed in Argentinian intellectual circles.