Artist Bio and Available Art Pieces
Rosario. May 14, 1905 - Buenos Aires. October 13, 1981
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Rosario, Santa Fe
KNOW FOR: Antonio Berni
INFLUENCES: Surrealism, Metaphysical school, Mexican muralism, New Objectivity
SCHOOL: New Realism
-Stimulus Prize of the Fall Hall of Rosario (1925)
-Second Prize: acquisition of the “Municipality of the Federal Capital” at the XXVI National Exhibition (1936)
-First Prize National Hall Painting (1940)
-Prize Acquisition Martin Rodriguez Galisteo in the XVIII Santa Fe Hall (1941)
-Great Engraving and Drawing Prize of the XXXI International Biennial of Art of Venice (1962)
-Prize of the I International Biennial of Engraving of Krakow (1966)
-Prize to the Intergraph Exhibition in Berlin (1967)
EDUCATION: Between 1914 and 1915 he took his first drawing classes at the Buxadera and Cia’s stained-glass workshop. He completed his education in Europe. In Paris, he attended to André Lhote and Othon Friesz’ workshops.
EXHIBITIONS: Among many other exhibitions, he participated in:
-First Hall of Argentinian Modern Painting with Basaldúa, Badi, Spilimbergo, and Butler (1928)
-Whitcomb Hall (1932)
-Friends of Arts of Buenos Aires (1932)
-Second Exhibition of Argentinian Painters in the Moody Gallery (1936)
-Friends of Arts of Montevideo (1938)
-International Exhibition of Paris (1939)
-Latin American Exhibition of Fine and Applied Art in Riverside Museum in New York (1939)
-Showcases Fine Arts in Argentina World’s Fair and Golden Gate Exposition, in New York and San Francisco (1939)
-Contemporary Argentine Art, in San Francisco Museum of Art (1942)
-First Latin American Artists exhibition at the Maison de Lamerique Latine (1949)
-Exhibits in Bucharest and Berlin (1956) and in Prague and the V International Biennial of Art of San Pablo (1959)
-International Biennial of Engraving of Tokyo (1964)
-Participates in exhibitions in Damascus and Milan (1972); Paris, Lyon and Miami (1973); in Ottawa and Québec and in showcases of Latin engravings shown in MoMA in New York. (1974)
-Participates in the Contemporary Argentinian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Tokyo (1980) and the exhibition 19th and 20th Century Latin American Painting, Drawing and Spultureen Christie’s in New York (1981)
Deliso Antonio Berni was born in Rosario, Argentina in 1905. In 1925, Antonio Berni traveled to Europe on a scholarship granted by the Jockey Club. In Paris, he attended André Lhote and Othon Friesz’ workshops. He met the Marxist philosopher Henri Lefebvre, who introduced him to the surrealist poet Louis Aragon, with whom he shared ideas about art commitment to the revolution. When he returned to Argentina in 1930, he settled with his wife and daughter in Rosario. In 1931 he joined the Communist Party.
Eclectic, versatile, prolific, voracious, Berni was an artist capable of swallowing techniques, materials and different styles until unleashing one with its own, unique stamp. He dabbled in surrealism, metaphysical art, modernism, new realism, social art.
He did murals, paintings, drawings, dazzling assemblies and created Xylo-collage-reliefs: an engraving technique that experimented with volume and that first presented at the Venice Biennale in 1962, where it won the Grand Prize of Engraving and drawing.
In Rosario, he postulated the new realism: an aesthetic and ideological argument that stated that art should interpret and reflect the social reality. From images of newspapers of the time that Berni kept on file emerged the key works of the new realism as Manifestación and Desocupados (or Desocupación), both from 1934. Made on sackcloth, in the latter, a group of men of different slumbering ages is observed, resigned to a tragic fate for lack of work. The deformation of the scale and foreshortened figures give the feeling of monumentality. The indigenous Madonna can be interpreted as a symbol of hope.
In the 50s, Berni began a series devoted to the humblest settlers of Argentina in Chaco and Santiago del Estero. La marcha de los cosecheros, La comida and Los hacheros are some of the great compositions from the temple that integrate the santiagueña series and show the rural misery.
The Juanito Laguna family, a mythical character of his saga, migrates from Santiago del Estero to the suburbs of the city, in Bajo Flores. The universe of the Laguna family is made of waste that the artist gathered in shanty towns of Buenos Aires: cartons, cans, wood, scrap metal, plastic containers. No random selection: materials are symbolically potent.
Berni’s legacy is so powerful that it is possible to understand the origin of contemporary Argentinian art through emblem characters like Juanito Laguna and Ramona Montiel (first seamstress and then prostitute). Today, Berni has the ability to be contemporary for the issues addressed and how they were handled. Although Ramona and Juanito embody social types, Berni manages to reach the core of the characters: He gives them life. For Berni, Juanito was always a symbol able to shake the conscience of the viewer. “Juanito is a poor boy but not a poor guy. It is not defeated by the circumstances but a being full of life and hope…”, said the artist.
As Juanito, Ramona condenses social inequality. For her, Berni chooses the simulacrum, the clothes and the adornments that appear glamorous: shimmering silk fabrics, tinsel and dresses with sequins and lace. Ramona, said the artist, enjoys the imitative luxury of the great world’s vanities. ” He lets himself be seduced, he is attracted by easy pleasure and interested judgments about her beauty.” “The atavistic consciousness of guilt” unleashes his nightmares: dazzling monsters, at the same time, ominous. These “polymathic constructions” are made of the most varied discard materials.
In the seventies, Berni continued his series of Juanito and Ramona while in other works he addressed issues related to violence and repression. In addition, he brought to the canvas the eroticism and beauty ideals imposed by the consumer society: he created machines to mold female bodies made with lags of household appliances that are like instruments of torture. He put the focus on the world of popular and religious beliefs with his fabulous installation La Difunta Correa (1976).
Berni, who was not religious but read the Bible, updated the religious iconography to refer to contemporary violence such as La Crucifixión and Apocalipsis (both made in 1981); in his María Magdalena who lives in an apartment and becomes a common woman, beautiful and anxious, and in Cristo en el garage (1981). One cannot stop linking crucifixions with the missing people during the military dictatorship in Argentina. Those who crucify Jesus are representatives of different instances of power. “the Crucifixion is on earth, it is not in heaven. It is the Christ who has come down to earth in the midst of men”, Berni said.
-Marcelo E. Pacheco, Berni. Escritos y papeles privados. Chile: Tema Grupo Editorial, 1999.
-Amigo Roberto (curador), Berni: narrativas argentinas. (Exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Buenos Aires, July 15 to October 3, 2010). Buenos Aires: Editorial AAMNBA, 2010.
-Rossi Cristina, (comp.), Antonio Berni: lecturas en tiempo presente. Buenos Aires: Editorial Eudeba; Eduntref, 2010.
-Fèvre Fermín, Berni. Buenos Aires: Editorial El Ateneo, 2001.
-Ramírez, Mari Carmen; Pacheco, Marcelo E.(curadores), Antonio Berni: Juanito y Ramona. (Exhibition held at the Museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires (Malba), from October 30, 2014 to February 23, 2015 (before, the exhibition was in el Museum of Fine Arts (Houston) y en el Phoenix Art Museum). Buenos Aires: Malba, 2014.
-Giunta, Andrea; Rossi, Cristina, Antonio Berni. Buenos Aires: Aguilar, 2014.