Alicia Barney Caldas

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Alicia Barney Caldas
Avatar-mujer.jpg
Datos generales
Nombre Alicia Barney Caldas
Fecha de nacimiento 28 de noviembre de 1952
Nacionalidad Colombiana Bandera de Colombia }}
Ocupación Artista
Formación profesional Arts del College of New Rochelle y Master of Fine Arts Pratt Institute en Nueva York
País de nacimiento Colombia Bandera de Colombia }}
Ciudad de nacimiento Cali


Alicia Barney Caldas is a Colombian artist born in Cali on November 28, 1952. In 1974 she obtained a bachelor of fine arts degree from the College of New Rochelle and a master of fine arts degree from the Pratt Institute in New York. Her work has an important place in the history of Colombian art, as during the eighties she was a pioneer in addressing environmental issues with the procedures of conceptualism, land art, and ecological art. Barney is a transgressive artist who, despite the questioning and lack of recognition, continued to develop her work, responding to her personal conviction.

Biography

Artistic Career

Alicia Barney was trained during the seventies in New York, which allowed her to learn first-hand about the theoretical discussions that led to one of the principles of contemporary art: the dematerialization of the work of art. This knowledge allowed her to understand the emblematic exhibition Ecological Art, which took place in 1969 at Gibson Gallery, where Christo, Hutchinson, and Oldenburg presented their works within this reflexive current. After finishing her studies, Barney decided to return to the capital city of Valle del Cauca in Colombia to develop her professional work. Upon her arrival, she contacted Miguel González, who without hesitation encouraged her to prepare her first exhibition in Colombia at Universidad del Valle, as González himself told Maria Wills in an interview:

Alicia Barney had her first solo exhibition in Colombia, at Universidad del Valle when I was directing the exhibitions there. It was about the Object-Diary, something totally different from what had been seen before. Benjamín Barney (who had married María de la Paz Jaramillo) called me, and I was already at Universidad del Valle, and he told me” “Look, I have a sister who does sculpture, and she came to live in Cali after studying in the United States. So I imagined some porcelains, some dancers, some busts, but I said I'm not going to get into trouble here with Benjamin, and I told her to come and show me her work [...] And then she showed up with her portfolio, with all her junk hanging out, right? All those things that for Colombia were very strange. So I said, "When do you want the exhibition?” (Wills, 2016).

Alicia Barney was trained during the seventies in New York, which allowed her to learn first-hand about the theoretical discussions that led to one of the principles of contemporary art: the dematerialization of the work of art. This knowledge allowed her to understand the emblematic exhibition Ecological Art, which took place in 1969 at Gibson Gallery, where Christo, Hutchinson, and Oldenburg presented their works within this reflexive current. After finishing her studies, Barney decided to return to the capital city of Valle del Cauca in Colombia to develop her professional work. Upon her arrival, she contacted Miguel González, who without hesitation encouraged her to prepare her first exhibition in Colombia at Universidad del Valle, as González himself told Maria Wills in an interview:

Alicia Barney had her first solo exhibition in Colombia, at Universidad del Valle when I was directing the exhibitions there. It was about the Object-Diary, something totally different from what had been seen before. Benjamín Barney (who had married María de la Paz Jaramillo) called me, and I was already at Universidad del Valle, and he told me "Look, I have a sister who does sculpture, and she came to live in Cali after studying in the United States. So I imagined some porcelains, some dancers, some busts, but I said I'm not going to get into trouble here with Benjamin, and I told her to come and show me her work [...] And then she showed up with her portfolio, with all her junk hanging out, right? All those things that for Colombia were very strange. So I said, "When do you want the exhibition?” (Wills, 2016).

With that first exhibition, Barney saw the public's resistance to new artistic proposals, expressed without respect. According to the artist, they scribbled insults onto the work and around it. These gestures of incomprehension demonstrated the innovative character of the artist, who from her first exhibition became part of the group of young creators who were renewing the national art scene by working with marginal materials and elements from everyday life. This position was consolidated with her inclusion in the fifth version of the Atenas Salon at the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art in 1979, where she exhibited one of her daily objects, this time Bocagrande I and Bocagrande II. Although her works had already been criticized in Cali as a result of the public’s total incomprehension, in Bogotá the criticism became even stronger. Marta Traba, the protagonist, and leader of the arts scene in the country since the nineteen fifties, spoke out forcefully against the direction in which new curators were taking Colombian art:

Not unrelated is the dominant tone that Colombian art has been taking in the hands of Eduardo Serrano at the Bogota Museum of Modern Art, Miguel Gonzalez in Cali, Alvaro Barrios in Barranquilla, and Alberto Sierra in Medellin, who have supported what they consider to be the avant-garde—that is, the use of systems other than the traditional media of painting, sculpture, and graphic art—in such an enthusiastic and exclusive way as to discourage anyone who dares to dissent (Quoted by González in an interview with Wills, 2016).

The formal results consolidated in a painting, sculpture, or graphic work of art were being cast aside to make room for process art, in which the important thing was not the formal solution but the idea. Barney was embedded in artistic productions that were the result of conceptual questions. For this reason, Álvaro Barrios included her in Arte para los años ochenta (Art for the Eighties), an exhibition that opened in 1980. Despite the resistance from the public, and at times form the field of art itself, Barney's work was again recognized in 1980, when she received the First Prize at the III Regional Visual Arts Salon in Cali for the same work with which she had participated in the Atenas Salon. That same year, she dared to do something that no artist had proposed in recent years, when various government voices all promulgated that the economic development of the country was to be found in the exploitation of its natural resources and industrialization. She decided to follow her sense of smell, wanting to know where the nauseating smell that surrounded her family farm and that of many other families in Yumbo came from. People from time to time asked about the reason for the smell, to which people naturally responded: "This is what Yumbo smells like." What was that smell that had become normal in the industrial capital of Valle del Cauca? This question was the starting point for Yumbo (1980), one of Barney’s most emblematic works, first exhibited at La Tertulia Museum of Modern Art in 1980. Members of the Administrative Department of Security arrived, because the work was—while not explicitly—a denunciation of the cement company that had operated in the municipality since the forties:

You could recognize them by the clothes they wore, the little shirts and the denim pants. There were three guys and they started to surround me and attack me. The only way out was to tell them that the polluted air was not only in Yumbo but that the air was circulating and that all that pollution would travel to the islands of the owners of Cementos del Valle. Suddenly they fell silent and left. Being an environmentalist is a subversive act for many. The more so at that time. That's why there is talk of radical environmentalists (Barney, 2015).

The following year, while already a professor at Universidad del Cauca, Barney formed an interdisciplinary team with a biologist and a photographer with whom she traveled to different points along the Cauca River to take samples of its water and speak out against its contamination. This initiative gave rise to the Cauca River project. When Barney exhibited the piece, it was harshly criticized by her students, who were still ignorant of the procedures employed, ones that would later connect artistic practice with ethnography. Although it would be going too far to say that her works were the result of scientific rigor, Barney did take elements of research to make her work a document of denunciation.

Between 1981 and 1982, she produced El ecológico, a newspaper of ten unique editions, each one consisting of forty original pages from various other newspapers in the country that Barney had been collecting for a long time. She asked Jorge Cachiotis, a history student, to classify the material by opposing themes according to his understanding of the state of the twenty themes into which the student had classified the material. Cachiotis wrote the titles Endangered Species and Non-Endangered Species on stamps with green ink. Among the themes were traditional customs, farmers, animals, human diversity, trees, water, sea, architecture, landscape, fresh food, canned food, atomic energy, clean energy, woman as an object, and woman as an individual.

Another relevant work of Barney’s is the installation Sin título (Untitled), with which she participated in the collective exhibition Aspectos de lo tridimensional (Aspects of the Three-Dimensional) at La Tertulia Museum of Modern Art in Cali, curated by Miguel Gonzalez whose objective was to show how the manner of approaching objects and sculpture had been transformed in Colombian art during the second half of the twentieth century. In Barney's enigmatic work, the viewer was confronted with three metal structures covered with rustic canvas and could climb the stairs in each of them to discover their contents. One contained an acrylic box, in turn filled with small boxes with the seeds of tropical trees; in another hung a gallon of chlorophyll-green paint leaking, while the third was filled with chicken eggshells.

Although the objective of the conceptualist works is not a formal result, they still require a material solution, as evident in Estratificación de un basurero utópico (Stratification of a Utopian Dump), 1987. Regarding this work the artist stated:

First performed in 1987 in Cali. They were 5 cm in diameter and 1,80 cm tall. There were 10 acrylic tubes built by hand by heating each piece in a bakery oven. When taken out there were wrapped in some blankets around a PVC tube. These pieces were then joined lengthwise and glued and then two were joined to achieve the height of 1,80 cm. The materials were collected at the roadside up past Piedras Blancas near Farallones in Cali. The garbage was collected for six months in plastic buckets. The roadside clearly presented the stratification I was looking for. Large stones below, followed by smaller stones, sand, and colored soil until the vegetation layer was reached. Then the garbage was introduced and sealed with purba (charcoal) and fine sand as indicated by the formulas for how you seal garbage so you can plant the dump a few years later. The garbage is all biodegradable. That is why utopia is in the title. This work was exhibited in Bogotá at the then Garcés Velázquez Gallery. Then it was sent to Medellín for the biennial and there the tubes were placed against the wall and fixed. I went out for lunch convinced that no one would enter, but a French artist on the other side of the wall decided to go in and nail his photos and plants to the wall, and he knocked down all the tubes, destroying most of them, since acrylic breaks, even though it is more resistant than glass (Barney, 2015).

Although at the time these works did not receive all the recognition they deserved, over the last few years artists, critics, and curators have become interested in highlighting the importance of Barney’s work. The invitation by Wilson Diaz in 2008 to the 41st National Artists’ Salon to make a second version of Yumbo is among these efforts. In 2014, Barney returned to execute the work Stratification of a Utopian Dump, and the National Museum bought two of the tubes from the new version, while eight more were acquired by a private collector. In 2016, her work Untitled (1984) was included in Fuerzas invisibles: exposición a partir de la primera asamblea de críticos frente a la crisis del No-objetualismo (Invisible Forces: Exhibition from the first assembly of critics addressing the crisis of non-object art) by Ericka Flórez and Pablo León de la Barra for the Referentes section at ARTBO. In 2017, her work El ecológico (1981) was included in the selection 33 Revoluciones (33 Revolutions) by Sylvia Suárez for ARTBO Referentes.

While recognition of Barney's work has focused on her production in the eighties, the artist continues to develop her work today.

Characteristics of her work

Miguel Gonzalez found in Alicia Barney's work a reinterpretation of the landscape, no longer bucolic, romantic paintings observed through the aesthetic gaze of early twentieth century artists, but rather an inquisitive, questioning, and provocative gaze. In Barney’s work, the concept replaces the object. The result is instead a process in which the materials signify the idea itself, which is not abstract matter, but part of reality, observed through her critical perspective. Materials are not used as metaphors, but as indexes, as a principle of reality where she coined the idea of the "shaman artist," one capable of interpreting them as anomalous elements, when they had already been over-naturalized:

I am interested in the direct meaning of objects and reality. I am not concerned with so-called aesthetic or touching interventions. Probably what attracts me most is the relationship I have with the objects. We cannot forget that we remain in a consumer society. Some people still make framed paintings and sculptures on plinths—that is, the old definition of art. We cannot ignore our historical moment; it is useless to continue with the techniques of the twentieth century. I’m thinking about art that challenges and goes around the bureaucratic paths of consumer society in its impotent ignorance" (González, 1979).

Barney thus created works from the critical and intuitive collection of the detritus of the cultural practices of a consumer society that was just beginning to manifest its devastating capacity in the early eighties. She provided a gaze that we are only beginning to see in contemporary reflections, the relationship between cities and the environment, their intimate and harmful relationship. As an ethnographer, she began to recognize and travel through space as a collector of information, without a fixed address, only as a witness to everyday events, and her diaries were a collection of garbage and traces of the human footprints in space:

In an attempt that was wonderful as an experience, I acted as a shaman in gathering up the objects. I wasn't picking up everything I saw, I was living in a different state of consciousness, not the standard every day one. However, I must make clear that I was not under the influence of any drugs, but rather living with enormous intensity. This state has repeated itself several times in my works. Then when I was writing my thesis, I found information about The Store by Claes Oldenburg. It was wonderful, because there was my experience translated into ideas, into words. But for me the experience came first and always does [...] The need for art not only to have a theoretical meaning but, above all, an experiential one is for me the basis of its transformational capacity, that is, its ability to touch the world significantly. (Barney, 2016)

That interest in the everyday soon became a constant gesture in several of her works: the duration of the recollection of time and space. Oldenburg became one of her main points of reference when she created a work that, although apparently a faithful copy of reality, suggested a different way of looking at it, since it was a matter of recognizing the trace quality of all the objects and the waste that consumer society implied. Barney poses a landscape not as an idyllic environment, but as a symbol of destruction. Thus, her works refer to a precise space, not an idea of it or its aesthetization. The landscape is no longer an image but a trace and an indication of the relationship between human beings and space. In this manner, Barney extended the limits of art, seeking to propitiate a transformation. But her intention was not merely to issue a complain, but to capture something human:

Whether we call all art "political" or only that art that is more plain in its denunciations, ART does not appear to have any "teeth." Its consequences, its effectiveness in producing changes in ordinary life of the public or the individual or at a mass level are limited. Its sphere of influence seems to fluctuate between art as a show widely co-opted by the media, or the timid calling-out that is drowned in small spheres of interest without real drive or transformative force at the mass level. To my mind, there is no comparison—not even close—between the impact of five scientific vessels orbiting Mars with noticeably clear intentions and an artist planting cassava and teaching women to do batik in a remote town without a health outpost and without even a rough road, distressingly exposed to the criminal whims of guerrillas and drug traffickers (apologies for the redundancy). Art has no teeth, seems to stumble poetically on a soon-lifeless planet that will no longer be able to sustain music, nor art, nor poetry. Darse cuenta, lecture given at Errata 2014, read on November 12, 2014, at the Errata 10 Colloquium entitled Polémicas ambientales - Prácticas sostenibles (Environmental Controversies—Sustainable Practices), can be used by the recipients so long as it is not modified and credit is given to the author, Alicia Barney Caldas Pratt M.F.A. Institute '77 (Barney, 2014).

The critical nature of Barney's gaze keeps her conviction intact, allows her to continue as an insubordinate pioneer of a structure that gazes from afar to affirm something that many think, but few dare to formulate given the narrowness of the local art field.

Featured works

  • 1975: Sin título (Untitled)
    • Puente sobre tierra.: Puente sobre tierra (Bridge Over Earth)
    • Viviendas I.: Viviendas I (Houses I)
  • 1976: La música y los músicos (Music and Musicians)
    • Cuerda (Rope)
    • Series of three books
  • 1977 1977: Object Diary, Series I
  • 1978: Object Diary, Series II, made up of Pratt I, Pratt II, Bocagrande I, Bocagrande II, Cali-Florida, Un día en la montaña (A Day on the Mountain), Gorky A and B, and Sin título (Untitled)
  • 1980: Yumbo
  • 1981: Río Cauca (currently part of the Galería La Sucursal collection)
  • 1981-1982: El ecológico (altered newspaper, some of these editions are part of the Toluca Fine Art collection)
  • 1984: Sin título (Untitled) (three metallic structures with canvas and objects)
    • Sin título (Untitled)
    • Odio el dibujo [orden] (I Hate Drawing (Order))
    • Sin título (Untitled)
  • 1987-2014-2015: Estratificación de un basurero utópico (Stratification of a Utopian Dump)
  • 1988: La requisa (The Inspection)
  • 1989: Pre-Columbian Object I
  • 1990: Pre-Columbian Object II (a)
  • Pre-Columbian Object II (b)
  • 1993: Aves en el cielo I (Birds in the Sky I)
  • Aves en el cielo II (Birds in the Sky II)
  • 1994: The Golden Branch (La rama dorada)
  • 1995: Proyecto meta-recinto (Mega Enclosure Project)
  • 1996: Proyecto Museo del Oro (Gold Museum Project)
  • 1997: Triqui
    • Nahual eterno (Eternal Nahual)
    • Nahual Infante (Infant Nahual)
    • Sin ruido (Noiseless)
    • Juguete de las hadas (Fairy Toy)
  • 1998: Viviendas II (Homes II)
  • Sujeto como tal (Subject As Such)
  • Taxonomía (Taxonomy)
  • 1999: Mark Thiesen
  • 2001: Las flores del mal (The Flowers of Evil)
  • 2008: Yumbo 2
  • 2016: El valle de Alicia (Alicia’s Valley)
    • Nueva sensibilidad, antigua presencia (New Sensibility, Old Presence)

Works by Alicia Barney in the Banco de la República Collections

Obras de Alicia Barney Caldas en la Colección de Arte del Banco de la República
Title Year Location Technique Registration number
Los estados que compré (The States I Bought) 1976 Reserve N/A AP6162

Timeline

  • 1952:Born in Cali on November 28.
  • 1974:Earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the College of New Rochelle in New York.
  • 1977:Obtained a master of fine arts degree from the Pratt Institute in New York.
  • 1978:Individual exhibition at Universidad del Valle and the Governor's House in Cali, presenting Diario Objeto I (Object Diary I).
  • 1979:Participated in the V Atenas Salon at the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art.
  • 1980:Participated in the collective exhibitions: Arte para los años ochenta (Art for the Eighties) at La Tertulia Museum in Cali, 14 artistas de Cali (14 Artists from Cali) at the gallery of Banco Central Hipotecario in Bogotá, and Década de los setentas (The Seventies) at the Cali Chamber of Commerce.
    • Participated in the XXVIII National Artists' Salon at the National Museum in Bogotá and won first prize at the III Regional Visual Arts Salon in Cali for the work Bocagrande.
  • 1981:With the work Río Cauca, participated in the First Latin American Colloquium on Non-Object Art and Urban Art held at the Museum of Modern Art in Medellín. Also participated in the collective exhibition IV Art Biennial in Medellín.
  • 1982:Individual exhibition El ecológico in the Sara Modiano Alternative Space in Barranquilla. Barney also participated in the collective exhibitions Cinco artistas colombianos (Five Colombian Artists) at the Espacio N.O. gallery in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Nuevos aportes y tendencias (New Contributions and Trends) at the Centro Colombo Americano in Bogotá, and La mujer en América: perspectivas emergentes (Women in the Americas: Emerging Perspectives) at the Inter-American Center in New York.
  • 1983:Participated in the collective exhibition Actitudes Plurales (Plural Attitutes) at the La Tertulia Museum of Modern Art in Cali.
  • 1984:Participated in the group exhibition Aspectos de lo tridimensional (Aspects of the Three-Dimensional) at the La Tertulia Museum of Modern Art in Cali.
  • 1985:Participated in the collective exhibition Cien años de arte colombiano (One Hundred Years of Colombian Art) and Barney, Caro Echeverri at the Medellín Pilot Public Library.
  • 1986:Participated in the XXX Annual Colombian Artists’ Salon.
  • 1987:Participated in the collective exhibition Douze Mondes Colombiens at the Grand Palais in Paris.
  • 1988:Participated in the first Art Biennial at the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art.
  • 1989:Participated in the collective exhibition Doce escultores colombianos/materiales e ideas (Twelve Colombian Sculptors: Materials and Ideas) at the Chamber of Commerce in Cali.
  • 1990:Participated in the second Art Biennial at the Bogotá Museum of Modern Art.
  • 1991:Participated in the collective exhibition 100 obras de la Colección/pequeño formato (100 Works from the Collection: Small Format) at the La Tertulia Museum of Modern Art in Cali.
  • 1992:Francisco de Paula Santander Scholarship. Participated in the collective exhibition América Novia del Sol (The Americas: Bride of the Sun) at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium.
  • 1993:Solo exhibition Aves en el cielo (Birds in the Sky) at Gartner Torres gallery in Bogotá. Participated in the group exhibitions Pulsiones at the La Tertulia Museum of Modern Art in Cali and Degas en el trópico (Degas in the Tropic) at the Art Museum of the National University of Bogotá.
  • 1994:Participated in the XXXV National Artists' Salon.
  • 1995:Participated in the collective exhibition Arte para Bogotá (Art for Bogotá) at the Santa Fe gallery.
  • 1997:Participated in the collective exhibitions Imaginación y fantasia (Imagination and Fantasy) at the La Tertulia Museum of Modern Art in Cali and the International Art Festival of the Medellín Museum of Modern Art.
  • 1998:Solo exhibition Fairy Toys (Juguetes de las hadas) at the Pereira Art Museum and La Merced Museum in Cali. Also participated in the collective exhibitions Fragilidad (Fragility) at the Art Museum of the National University of Bogota, Piezas de caza (Hunting Pieces) at the Espacio Vacío gallery in Bogota, and the VI Bogotá Museum of Modern Art Art Biennial, where she obtained a special mention.
  • 1999:Participated in the collective exhibition El traje del emperador (The Emperor's New Clothes) at the Santa Fe gallery at Bogotá.
  • 2001:Participated in the collective exhibitions 1930-2001: Odisea de un espacio (1930-2001: Odyssey of a Space) at the Valenzuela and Klenner gallery in Bogotá and Flores del mal (Flowers of Evil) at Espacio Vacío gallery in Bogotá.
  • 2008:Participated in the 41st National Artists' Salon.
  • 2014:Participated in the group exhibitions Contraexpediciones (Contraexpeditions) at the Museo de Antioquia, Basurero Utopico (Utopian Dump) at Instituto de Visión gallery, and The Phylogeneis of Generosity at Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin.
  • 2015:Individual exhibition El Basurero (The Dump) in La Sucursal Cali gallery. Participated in the collective exhibitions Bienal Mercosur in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Referentes Lo continuo/Lo discontinuo (References: Continuity and Discontinuity) at Artbo Bogotá.
  • 2016:Participated in the XXXII Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil with her work Valle de Alicia (Alicia's Valley) at Ibirapuera Parl. Also participated in the 44th National Salon of Artists and Mutinous Nature at MAMBO in Bogotá. Her work Untitled (1984) was included in the in References at ARTBO.
  • 2017:Participated in the collective exhibition Radical Women at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.
  • 2018:Participated in the collective exhibition El arte de la desobediencia (The Art of Disobedience) at MAMBO in Bogotá. El ecológico was included in 33 Revoluciones (33 Revolutions), curated by Sylvia Suárez for References ARTBO, 2017.

Véase también

Bibliography

  • González, M. (1979, December 30). El azar como expresión. El País, p. 11-12.

Banco de la República Art Collection

Credits

1. Research and text: Laura Alejandra Rubio León, mediator of Banco de la República museums and collections, for Banrepcultural.

2.Review and editing: Inti Camila Romero Estrada and Diana Marcela Salas Solórzano. Public and Educational Services, Art, and Other Collections Unit (UAOC).