Other arts in movement

In the Dominican Republic it is possible to speak of a before and after the first five years of the 60 years in terms of history and art history, and not only in aspects of creation, but also in its institutional process, since the National Biennials , which were the most important public activity platform for the arts, were suspended from 1967 to 1972, and after two years, again interrupted until 1979; while the School of Art is very depressed, in correspondence with the whole system. 

At this juncture, private sponsorships take on an important role not only in dissemination but also in artistic training. A new contest was born from 1964, the Eduardo Leon Jimenes Annual Art Contest (convened and sponsored by the E. Leon Jimenes Group), which later acquired a biennial character. On the other hand, the projection of the galleries and the market that created a new commercial dynamic, with profitability indexes, diversifying their characteristics and sale options, is increasing. Meanwhile, art criticism finds new voices, in addition to those of Manuel Valldeperes and Pedro René Contín Aybar. Indicates Sara Hermann, that "women stand out between 1965 and 1970 and they remain valid until today: Jeannette Miller and Marianne de Tolentino" .33 Both have made an essential work for the critical historiography of Dominican art, which means a remarkable legacy to the visual culture of the country. The author emphasizes other fundamental names, such as Arnulfo Soto, Fernando Peña Defilló, María Aybar and Danilo De los Santos.

At the end of the sixties, the Grupo Proyecta (1968) manifested itself by new artistic positions before the Dominican reality, which no longer included direct action in decisive moments for citizen peace and patriotic defense, but which did request for art a space in society, and of artists, an ethical and civic participation in the artistic process. A new stage was opening for Dominican art. The times in which art and society vibrated in the face of Dominican hopes and frustrations were milestones in the history of Dominican art, and the 60s, an opening towards the new challenges of contemporary times with all its web of complexities. New aesthetic-artistic paradigms and a new sensibility were beginning to make their way, marked by other arts and trends that were set in motion to promote different alternatives for creation, among them multidisciplinarity, which gave “avant-garde” touches to the arts of the time. and that had its public expression as a group in the exhibition Nueva imagen (1972), in which “twelve artists with real intentions of renovation in art […] carried out their searches incorporating posters, posters, corroborating the need for communication of the artists with their receivers ”.

The Dominican plastic arts verified an extension of their practices with the inclusion of graphic design, engraving and photography, which was a trend throughout the Hispanic Caribbean region, as well as the influence of other international trends, such as pop and the new figuration, which also leave their mark on the production of the creators. A greater "communicative process" is established at that juncture and the predominantly galleristic and two-dimensional scheme of the preceding works is broken to make way for the assemblies with strong roots in popular culture, as can be seen in the works of Geo Ripley and Soucy de Pellerano

Under these circumstances, photography, a young existence recognized as an artistic expression, gradually began to surpass the services it provided, both to advertising and to commercial and political activity, a process that seemed to monopolize –with its intense influence– the “modernizing” years. from the fifties-seventies. There are no studies that cover photography trends in the Hispanic insular Caribbean in the second half of the 68th century, neither before nor after. These are pending projects that, upon completion, will be able to illuminate many unknown or little-studied issues today. There are also no country monographs, nor systematic events that promote encounters and reflection between creators and critics. In the Dominican Republic, it began towards the end of the sixties, with the founding of the photographic group Jueves 1976, called as a fan club by Wifredo García, Santiago Morel, Nidio Fermín and Julio González, who were seeking recognition for the work of photography as art . It was especially in the XNUMXs that a group-based photographic movement and exhibition projection developed in the country. In the history of Dominican photography, the first personal exhibitions were by Wifredo García and Martín López, in XNUMX, and they marked a milestone in the trajectory of this art for its aesthetic and social legitimation, although none of them were held in art galleries. but in the Theater House. Wifredo García in his book Photography. An art for our century, he affirmed referring to that event that "it was still doubted that photography could be an art."

In 1977, he and other colleagues, create Fotogrupo that, as an Association, sought to integrate those interested, professionals or amateurs. The first photography exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art took place at 1978 and was carried out by Martín López. As it has been said, it was in Santo Domingo that the first National Biennial of Plastic Arts in the insular Caribbean arose in the 1942 year, but photography would not enter the contest with the same considerations as the other artistic manifestations until 1979, year in which also introduces the controversial free category. A year later, the First National Meeting of Photographers took place in Santo Domingo. The winner of the photographic prize in the 1979 year was Onorio Montás, with his work Purito; and the winner of the free theme prize on that occasion was Faustino Pérez, with his series Otros mundos. In it, the author used the superposition of images and photos interspersed with great balance due to the chromatic use: "I put them on the street and I take them from the house, it refers to a girl with rolos, where the broken lines of the The background is directed all towards your head, this statement gives a graphic sense to the work and demonstrates the use of these devices (the rolos) as decorative elements that are part of a social behavior ". Photography, according to international trends, also created new alternatives for social projection with a commitment to a more objective approach to the Dominican reality for the arts and the context, as can be seen in the photographic use in the works of Peña Defilló and also in the photorealism by Alberto Bass.

The opening to the installation format of the artistic work was in Altar Vuduista, by Jorge Severino, presented in 1978 at the First Latin American Biennial of São Paulo, an essential reference in the Dominican arts. Due to its character, it had the installation format within an environment that recreated a Dominican house in which, arranged in three spaces, the altars and associated elements were placed within the concept of the work. To do this, in addition to the altar-object, he made a large-format piece of Santa Marta La Dominadora and a series of photocopies of doll figures, an icon that he had used in previous series and works, as well as the image of the woman, as can be seen in his work La dama (1974), with which he won the Third Prize for Painting at the Biennial of the same year the piece was made. The insertion of the photocopy in this installation reveals a manipulation in the use of a reprographic medium that was novel in its time. By moving photography to this new medium, he built a sense of seriality and reiteration that brought new meanings to the use of the referent, doubly manipulated, due to its quality of object associated with the meaning of the game. With his uses of these "objects of civilization" and other elements in previous works, such as packaging boxes, graffiti and commercial signs, he transgressed the limits of the "artistic" to make a sensitive contribution to Dominican contemporaneity. Meanwhile, due to its theme, it penetrated highly sensitive and controversial areas of culture, due to its socio-racial and cultural aspects, by claiming the figure of the black woman, on the one hand, and by penetrating with the voodoo Altar in that delegitimized area that it also integrates the largest flow of popular traditions of the Dominican people.

Although a different panorama makes its way into the Dominican plastic arts, it is also possible to distinguish - nonetheless - a common social unrest and also common orientations in the arts that were expressed -in their diversity- by a change in the more open, identitarian statements in the observation of national realities from a critical perspective. The strings were strained and the sixties and seventies would be a very important chronological knot as "moment" of a change of sensibility. Abstractionism had had a primordial function in that sense, a therapeutic character in the environment of those years, when it became clear that reality could not only be represented but also created and value the artistic capacity of all the plastic language media and expand its expressive possibilities. It was a change of perception and meaning of the real world for artistic creation, which left behind the visual system established by modernity, always late in the peripheries and, as part of them, in the islands and territories of the Caribbean. On the other hand, the new expressive forms of art interested areas of the spiritual world of the creator and its relationship with the use of expressive means that enhanced unknown aspects of the making and thinking of the visual arts within the scope of a new visual culture in the Antillean insularities.

On the cultural level, the new artistic sensibility adopted critical reformulations, of ethical and aesthetic value in relation to its context, as well as explored its links with other artistic disciplines -such as printmaking, photography and graphic design- that in general were not taken into account in the insular Caribbean territories by the legitimating spaces of artistic creation. This fact was of great significance in the perspectives of the change of artistic paradigm from the seventies in the Dominican Republic and in the territories of the insular Hispanic Caribbean, and will give a seal of authenticity to the vibrations, commitments and projections of the plastic arts to the present day.

Taken from the Book Braiding a History in Progress, Contemporary Dominican Art in the Context of the Caribbean

Yolanda Wood, Historian, critic and Art Researcher.
Full professor at the University of Havana

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