Oscar Muñoz: Chronology
The Colombian government begins a new wave of attacks against communist groups, which had been active in rural areas since the 1930s. The objective is to prevent a Cuban-style revolution from spreading in the region. A period of rapprochement with the United States gets underway in the context of the Alliance for Progress, a project strongly supported by President Alberto Lleras Camargo.
Colombian artists begin to move away from traditional media. Feliza Bursztyn has her ﬁrst exhibition of sculptures produced with recycled metal. The National Art Festival of Cali, sponsored by oﬃcial institutions, begins to take place annually (until 1970). It supports an increasingly dynamic art scene in Cali.
Young Muñoz and his mother regularly visit the nearby Museum La Tertulia where he sees work by modern artists such as Pedro Alcántara, Fernando Botero, Enrique Grau, David Manzur, Norman Mejía, Alejandro Obregón, Omar Rayo, and Lucy Tejada. Drawing becomes Muñoz’s favorite activity.1
With backing from the United States, the Plan Lazo or Lasso (Latin American Security Operation), is enacted. This counter-insurgency policy involves actions by military and paramilitary groups aimed at bringing violent areas under the control of the central government.
The National Commission to Investigate de Causes and Circumstances of Violence in the National Territory, including Germán Guzmán, Orlando Fals Borda, and Eduardo Umaña Luna, publishes The Violence in Colombia. Study of a Social Process. This report brings the subject of violence to the center of cultural discourse among artists, writers, and intellectuals.2 Alejandro Obregón wins first prize at the National Salon of Colombian Artists with his painting Violence. This work, like his earlier painting Dead Student (Wake) of 1958, is a paradigmatic depiction of violence in Colombian art during this period.
Founded in 1957, the Museum of Modern Art opens its doors in Bogotá under the direction of Marta Traba. In Cali, Fernell Franco becomes interested in photography when he is hired as a messenger for the photography studio Foto Arte Italia.
Colombia’s civil war shifts to low-grade confrontations between the government and newly founded guerrilla groups that follow different models of communist ideology. The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) finds followers mostly among peasants. The ELN (National Liberation Army), is led by former Roman Catholic priests, including Camilo Torres Restrepo. They are trained in Liberation Theology, a movement developed mainly by Latin American Roman Catholics, that emphasizes liberation from social, political, and economic oppression. The ELN attracts more students than rural workers.
The I Intercol Salon for Young Artists takes place in July, featuring the works of Feliza Burstyn, Beatriz González, Carlos Rojas, and Bernardo Salcedo, and marking the emergence of Pop Art in Colombia. Artists recycle popular and media-based images, everyday objects, or found materials in their works, rejecting the tenets of high modernism. Bernardo Salcedo exhibits his White Boxes for the first time, assemblages made with ordinary objects and painted white.
Drawing and printmaking emerge in Latin America as independent artistic media. Graphic art biennials begin in Chile in the late 1960s, and in Puerto Rico and Colombia in the early 1970s. Important poster production develops in Cuba and within Chicanx art communities in the United States. In Colombia, artists working with these media tend to address social and political subjects in response to the deepening socio-political crisis and the increase in the level of violence.3 Cali experiences a period of extensive artistic and cultural activity, becoming a rich creative environment.
I Pan American Painting Salon opens at the Museum La Tertulia, Cali. The I Cali Vanguard Art Festival is organized at the Art Gallery The National in Cali by the Nadaístas, a group of avant-garde poets and artists inspired by the philosophies of nihilism and existentialism. The Nadaístas saw the event as both a counter-cultural response to the Cali National Art Festival, and a critical statement against violence in Colombia. The vanguard festival featured a Happening organized by Pedro Alcántara and Norman Mejía.4 The Cali Student Art Festival begins to be held annually. It includes work by two fourteen-year-olds: Oscar Muñoz and Andrés Caicedo. Franco Fernell begins to work for the Diario de Occidente as a photojournalist. Beatriz González won a prize at the XVII National Salon with The Sisga Suicides, a painting based on a photograph reproduced in a newspaper.
Muñoz attends secondary school at the Colegio San Antonio María Claret, a parochial school, until 1970.
Camilo Torres Restrepo is killed in a guerrilla attack in February. The Cali Institute for Housing (INVICALI) is created to facilitate family housing and address the problem of overcrowded slums and tenements.
In March, the Italian Embassy in Colombia organizes the I Dante Alighieri International Painting Salon to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth. Bernardo Salcedo’s assemblage, What Dante Didn’t Know: Beatriz Loved Birth Control, scandalizes the public for its unorthodox topic and use of found materials. The work is awarded first prize, indicating the emergence of experimental art in Colombia. The II Cali Vanguard Art Festival takes place in June, featuring the work of Pedro Alcántara, Carlos Granada, and Augusto Rendón, among others. Alcántara, a Cali-based artist who studied with Lorenzo Homar in Puerto Rico, produces the larger-than-life ink drawing Martyrdom Aggrandizes the Root-Men, a gruesome image of violence and torture.
Cali is the capital of one of the most industrialized regions in Colombia, and of great importance to the national economy. The main product is sugar cane, harvested in the Valle del Cauca using modern machinery and technologies. Pressure to acquire more land leads to an increase in rural violence and large displacement of peasants. Population migrations from Valle del Cauca and from the Pacific Coast result in massive urban expansions. Many people come to Cali looking for work. Cali undergoes an urban transformation in advance of the Pan American Games of 1971. Large sums of money are invested in the infrastructure for the games, including a new modern campus of the University del Valle, built in part with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank. This expansion fails to accommodate the city’s growing population. Slums arise in the western sector of Cali and angry workers begin to protest.5
Muñoz begins to take evening classes at Cali’s Departmental School of Fine Arts, an informal school geared toward instruction in the visual arts, dance, and theater. He focuses on drawing, his favored medium during his early years.6 The training he receives and the interest in political art at the school (Mexican muralism and expressionist neoﬁguration) have a lasting inﬂuence on his practice. Through his older sister Stella, Muñoz meets and begins a lasting friendship with Miguel González, an important local art critic and curator.7
Gabriel García Márquez publishes One Hundred Years of Solitude. In May, Beatriz González has an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá. In June, the VII Cali National Art Festival features exhibitions of Bernardo Salcedo and Beatriz González.
The ideas of change and freedom among the young that emerged during the May 1968 Paris rebellion, encourage political dissention in the forms of strikes and student protests in Colombia.
In Bogotá, Marta Traba opens in May the Galería Marta Traba with the exhibition Those Who Are, featuring the leading artists of the period: Pedro Alcántara, Feliza Bursztyn, Luis Caballero, Santiago Cárdenas, Beatriz González, Sonia Gutiérrez, Ana Mercedes Hoyos, Clemencia Lucena, David Manzur, and Bernardo Salcedo. The show Twenty Young Colombian Artists, including Oscar Muñoz, takes place at the Colseguros gallery in Bogotá. What is now named the Museum of Modern Art La Tertulia moves to a new, larger building. Its ongoing support of Cali’s growing art scene includes a film series organized by Luis Ospina and Ramiro Arbeláez.8 Pedro Alcántara begins a series of drawings entitled The Bodies that explores the eviscerating effects of violence on the human body.9
In May, the I Coltejer Ibero-American Painting Biennial takes place in Medellín, Colombia, with the participation of Luis Caballero, who wins the grand prize, Bernardo Salcedo, and Beatriz González. In June, Muñoz participates in the inter-collegiate exhibition III Cali Student Art Festival, organized by the Museum of Modern Art La Tertulia, the Experimental Theater of Cali, and the Center of Psychoanalytic Studies (directed by Estanislao Zuleta, a well-known philosopher and university professor).10 In December, the Museum of Modern Art of Bogotá, now located on the campus of the National University, opens the exhibition Environmental Spaces, featuring experimental and conceptualist work by Alvaro Barrios, Feliza Bursztyn, Santiago Cárdenas, Ana Mercedes Hoyos, Bernardo Salcedo, and others.
Muñoz visits the Museum of Modern Art La Tertulia often to see movies. His interest in film and in Italian neorealism will continue throughout his career.11
Muñoz participates in the IV Cali Student Art Festival. Marta Traba leaves Colombia. The loss of her authoritative voice creates a lasting void in art criticism at the national level.
1 María Wills, “Entrevista retrospectiva a Oscar Muñoz,” banrepcultural.org, accessed January 28, 2020.
2 Katia González Martínez, Cali, ciudad abierta: Arte y cinefilia en los años setenta (Bogotá: Ediciones Uniandes, 2012), 41.
3 Alvaro Medina, Dibujantes y grabadores colombianos (Bogotá: Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá Dirección de Divulgación y Cultural, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 1975).
4 González Martínez, Cali, ciudad abierta, 41.
5 Yefferson Ospina, “¿Qué pasó en 1971 en Cali que cambió la historia de la ciudad para siempre?” ElPais.com, July 16, 2017, accessed March 4, 2020.
6 Wills, “Entrevista retrospectiva.”
7 María Inés Rodríguez and Oscar Muñoz, “Un diálogo,” in Carlos Jiménez, et al., Oscar Muñoz: Documentos de la amnesia (Badajoz: Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, 2008), 181.
8 Wills, “Entrevista retrospectiva.”
9 María Margarita Malagón, “Art as Indexical Presence, The Work of Three Colombian Artists in Times of Violence: Beatriz González, Oscar Muñoz and Doris Salcedo in the 1990s,” doctoral dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin, 2006, 50.
10 Wills, “Entrevista retrospectiva”; Diego Garzón, Otras voces, otro arte: diez conversaciones con artistas colombianos (Bogotá: Planeta, 2005), 50–51.
11 Wills, “Entrevista retrospectiva.”