With a thousand-mile coastline of fishing villages, beach, island and coral atolls, Venezuela is a country of striking natural beauty as well as dramatic contrasts. There are the snowcapped peaks of the Andes in the west and in the south are the steamy Amazon jungles. South America’s largest lake, Lake Maracaibo can be found there as well as the third-longest river, the Orinoco, and the world’s highest waterfall, the Angel Falls. Since the 1940’s, Venezuela is also home to the western hemisphere’s largest conventional proven oil reserves.
Caracas, Venezuela’s capital is a bustling metropolis of nearly 5 million inhabitants. Fast, progressive and cosmopolitan, the city has kept little of its colonial character and boasts some of the most impressive modern architecture in South America.
In the 19th century art in Venezuela was greatly influenced by European Art movements. So much so that many of Venezuela’s prominent painters studied in France. One of the country’s most noted artist in Venezuela around this time was Armando Reveron (1889-1954). Reveron is considered Venezuela’s pioneer of modern artwork, transcending the late Impressionist style of the times and opting for a minimal palette, painting almost exclusively with the color white.
With the discovery of oil at the end of the 1940’s, big changes came for the country as well as the Venezuelan society. As the booming oil industry accelerated the process of modernization, the rural country changed vehemently and cities grew fast. Young artists were eager to participate in the flow of the time and with them came the revolution of the arts. Two groups started to emerge out of the conflicts with the “old” traditional art school: The association “Taller Libre de Arte” and the group “Los Disidentes” who lived in France.
Both groups were dedicated to experimenting with new artistic forms. “Los Disidentes” introduced geometric abstraction to Venezuela’s art world and was imperative for the development of kinetic art, which evolved out of geometric abstraction.
Alejandro Otero (1889-1954), Jesus Soto (1923 - ) and Carlos Cruz-Diez (1923 - ) were crucial figures for the kinetic art movement and became internationally recognized. They carried out original experiments in geometric abstraction and kinetic art, which brought them fame in the art field in Venezuela. Jesus Soto became Venezuela’s most significant kinetic artist. The kinetic movement was an art movement officially recognized and financially supported by the Venezuelan democratic governments of the 1960’s and 70’s, as it captured the exhilarating climate of modernization in Venezuela. This challenged other art styles from getting fair recognition concurrently.
Yet, in response to the political and social changes shaking the fragile democracy, artists were looking for a different, more open and liberating language. Artists were experimenting with many different styles. A re-evaluation of Venezuela’s culture was pondered by some, and certain artists expressed legends, myths and traditional beliefs in their artwork. Other painters who were members of the “Taller Libre de Arte”, like Mario Abreu, “sought to combine high art with folk art, the urban with the symbolic sources of Venezuela’s religious myths.”
As the 20th century progressed with technology, Venezuelan artists also experimented with conceptual art along a variety of paths, including installation, video, conceptual objects, happenings and actions. A new movement known as “New Drawing” enjoyed a winning position of prominence within the country’s history of art. The movement was dedicated to reinvigorate drawing in Venezuela.
Today Venezuela’s artists are as prolific and versatile as the country Venezuela itself. This particular exhibit showcases three contemporary Venezuelan artists, Eduardo Azuaje, Juan Urbina and Freddy Villarroel.
Their work provides an excellent sampling of the varied techniques and composition styles one may find in that region. They each have distinct approaches in the manner that they express Venezuela, their homeland and cultural heritage. Brought together one can experience a touch of Venezuela through these artist’s eyes.