Arts / Artists of the Fifties: Historical Background
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Lorenzo Homar
At the beginning of the decade of the 1950s a group of young artists who had been formed in cities such as Paris, Florence, Madrid or New York, returned to Puerto Rico. They would constitute the Generationgeneration: 1. A group of people who by virtue of having been born around the same time and having received similar education and cultural and social influences react in a similar manner under given circumstances. (The Generation of 1898). 2. A group of people in the arts or sciences whose work shares certain characteristics and who have lived through the same historical events. of the Fifties, whose principal members were: Manuel Hernández Acevedo, Lorenzo Homar, Augusto Marín, Carlos Raquel Rivera, Félix Rodríguez Báez, Julio Rosado del Valle, José Antonio Torres Martinó, and Rafael Tufiño.

These artists formed an artistic movement with a populist agenda of creating images that affirmed national identity. In 1950, they established the Puerto Rican Art Center, a hub dedicated to promoting an art that identified with the people. The radical discourse of political leader Pedro Albizu Campos inspired them to give a visible shape to the claims for dignity implicit in the pro independence position of the Nationalists. Consequently, they used the graphics medium, with its dramaticdramatic: Pertaining to the drama. contrasts between black and white, to bring to life images that celebrate the strength of our people or that condemned the economic and colonial exploitation in Puerto Rico during the beginning of the 20th century.

The Mexican muralist movement influenced the affirmation of national identity, the rescue and monumentalization of everything indigenous, which was the basis for the emergence of the schools of modern art in Latin America. Portraying the people, the landscape, the popular celebrations, as well as explicitly condemning U.S. control of the island, captured the imagination of this generation of artists. They focused their efforts on creating visual images of national identity, a Puerto Rican iconography, while at the same time denouncing Puerto Rico’s difficult situation. But the radical struggle of the Nationalists alerted the government of the United States of the need to make changes. Thus the fifties also saw the political reforms of the Popular Democratic Party, led by Luis Muñoz Marín, who, in 1948, was the first duly-elected governor of Puerto Rico.


The reforms included a massive literacy program, for which the artists of the generation of the 1950s designed and produced books, movies and the posters which promoted them. Practically all the members of this 50s generation worked in the government’s Community Education Division (DIVEDCO) of the Education Department stimulated by the interest of contributing with their work to the improvement of the living conditions of the people. At the DIVEDCO they made silkscreen posters, a medium that has become the popular instrument to produce all kinds of color posters. The genre of the literature-based graphics portfolio came as a result of the close collaboration with the main Puerto Rican writers in the production of "Libros del Pueblo" (Books for the People) at the DIVEDCO. This genre has been developed by successive generations of Puerto Rican artists.


The University of Puerto Rico, the other center of artistic development during the decade of 1950, had welcomed exiled Spanish intellectuals and artists after the Spanish Civil WarSpanish Civil War: A violent conflict that raged in Spain between 1936-1939, after a failed coup against the democratic government of the Second Republic staged by part of the armed forces. The rebels won the war and established a fascist dictatorship under General Francisco Franco.. Their presence created a stimulating environment and established another frame of reference in the visual arts. Angel Botello Barros founded a successful art gallerygallery: Large room used to expose pieces of art. Virtual expositions of pieces of arts, photography or pictures. in San Juan. Through Esteban Vicente, Olga Albizu and Julio Rosado del Valle had their first contact with abstraction. Spanish surrealist Eugenio Fernández Granell stimulated pupils Rafael Ferrer and Rafael Alberti in the search for expressions considered irreverent by their peers. Ferrer’s rebelliousness led to his migration to the United States, where in the sixties he played a distinguished role in international vanguard movements. Surrealism inspired the works of Luis Maysonet and the Dobal brothers, José and Narciso. At the University of Puerto Rico, Félix Bonilla Norat found a more conducive environment for his fantastic images. The work of Carlos Raquel Rivera has been described as "surrealist," because of his enigmatic figures and the way he combined pictorial elements.






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