After the splendours of the viceroyalty of Peru, of which Bolivia was a part, Bolivian painting has been closing in on literary allegory, only in some cases alleviated by landscaping. Even the happy season of Baroque polychrome wooden sculpture of the colonial period gradually degenerated to the plaster stereotype. As early as 19 0 sec. Italy takes over from Spain as a reference model in the field of sculpture: in 1918, U. Rodríguez (1883-1941) and A. Guardia (1896-1977), founder of the Academia de Bellas, undertake a study trip to Rome Artes in La Paz and then that of Cochabamba. Both of them do not stray from their academic backgrounds. For Bolivia 1999, please check estatelearning.com.
Poor country, sparsely populated, politically unstable, squeezed in the middle of South America, landlocked, even artistically the Bolivia is marked by precariousness, isolation and reduced production. Not even the wealth produced by the exploitation of tin and rubber propitious changes in the first two decades of the century. To interrupt this situation is C. Guzmán de Rojas (1900-1950), with a nationalist art whose obsessive subject is the Indian – the vast majority of the population – presented in both a stylized and academic way: Guzmán de Rojas has culturally the merit to draw attention to the Bolivian reality, trying to rejoin, in the last years of life, also with the Hispano-Indian tradition.
The war of Chaco (1932-35) against Paraguay was a decisive event for art: some artists, called as soldiers to the front, moved by pain, draw and paint the war, leaving the academic formalism for an expressionism more suited to immediacy of the execution, to the cruelty of the subject and to the feelings it arouses in them and which they want to communicate. In addition to Guzmán de Rojas, G. Coimbra (1908-1976), A. Reque Meruvia (1906-1967), signed by Kémer, J. de la Reza (1901-1961), G. Ibáñez (d. 1979) are worth mentioning.).
Painting with a social tendency, which focuses on national themes in which the Indian plays a primary role (Indigenism), has its epicenters in La Paz and Chuquisaca. M. Alandia Panteja (1914-1975), and W. Solón Romero (b. 1925) are the leaders of Bolivian social muralism, which follows the Mexican one. Also militant in muralist nationalism are L. Vaca (b. 1930), J. Imaná (b. 1930) and his brother Gil (b. 1933): all three were part of the Anteo group, founded by Solón Romero.
In 1952 the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) came to power, with the president Paz Estenssoro, and the artists of nationalist figurativeism joined it. From that year a policy of support for art began: the Anual Pedro Domingo Murillo Prize and the Salón Nacional were created in La Paz ; works are officially bought and exhibitions are organized.
Abstract art comes late. In 1953 a collective exhibition was organized in La Paz with the participation of eight painters, in which the most common reference is cubism. From here a process of reduction and stylization of the image begins, leading to the abstract. The collision of the universal idea of art with the figurative one of local tradition is strong. It should be noted that in Bolivia Indigenism was an obligatory step for almost all contemporary artists and that today, at a distance, the differences between the abstract and the figurative tendency appear attenuated, since the theme is not the only repository of the contents of the work, but also the abstract elaborations express the vernacular spirit with great effectiveness.
The abstract has its stronghold in La Paz. Among the protagonists are A. Pacheco (1910-1983) and ML Pacheco (1919-1982), who achieved continental fame. In the work of the latter the critic sees the clear air and the clear and limpid light of the Andes: painting based on translucent planes and with the incorporation of sand textures, corrugated canvas, balsa wood. O. Pantoja (b. 1925) is also located in the lyrical line of capture of the Andean incorporeal. Other abstractionists are A. La Placa (b. 1929), A. Da Silva (b. 1937), G. Rodríguez (b. 1932) and the neo-material I. Córdova (b. 1927). The dialectical result of the friction between social figurativism and abstraction is a schematic figurativism that deals with social themes, of which Z. Linares (1928-1961) is one of the representatives, as well as M. Chiri Barrientos (b. 1930) and E.
In the field of sculpture, the most internationally known personality is M. Núñez del Prado (b.1910), who from the initial Indigenism reaches anthropomorphic stylizations, but also zoomorphic ones, based on curvilinear volumes that are externally attached to the world of H. Arp, but who actually want to capture the sinuosity of the Andean mountains: Bolivian materials are used for his work, from Comache granite to basalt, onyx, pink alabaster, guayacán wood. In 1952 Núñez del Prado represented Bolivia at the Venice Biennale.
Researches for the essentialization of the form are also carried out by E. Luján (1910-1976) and by R. Terrazas (1924-1989).