Art History class ARH 3930 student Valentine Johnson offers a reflection on the museum collection, Rafael Bogarin’s Jupiter 6, finding connections among Jupiter 6, Rafael’s personal encounters, and Rafael’s other works. This reflection has been shortened by the museum to fit into this page, for the full length of the article, please check here. Johnson-Bogarin-Jupiter 6
Jupiter 6 is a 1981 geometric, abstract serigraph by Venezuelan artist Rafael Bogarin. This print evolved out of a rich plastic art scene in Venezuela and defies clear categorization even within its regional context; it is a geometric rather than lyrically or figuratively abstract print, it is architectural but not kinetic, it defies the institutional norms of the time without denying the mission of the plastic art which preceded it. Rather than the enclosed avant-garde of the late 1970s and early ‘80s, the print medium allows for broad distribution and contact with a wider public. The main question driving my research into Bogarin, and Jupiter 6 in particular, was: “where exactly does this piece fit into the print and plastic arts of Venezuela in the late 1970s and early ‘80s?” While Jupiter 6 doesn’t fit cleanly into any one category, it does clearly evolve from a rich, multi-faceted art scene in postwar Venezuela.
Rafael Bogarin self-identifies as a plastic artist, working first in engravings and printmaking, then painting and sculpture. He worked under engravers like Luis Guevara Moreno and Luis Chacón, who both had printing presses in their studios (Bogarin ‘Biographie’ trans. mine, Palacios 67). Printmaking at the time was dominated by figural and lyrical abstractionists, Luisa Palacios, Moreno, and Chacón among them. Rather than following in the style of his teachers, Bogarin tended toward geometric abstraction as time went on, but didn’t fall strictly into the kinetic movement which dominated geometric abstraction in Venezuela at the time. Circles appear repeatedly throughout his prints and his color palette is restricted to primary colors and green, often applied in flat planes and lines. The most significant piece that precedes Jupiter 6 is an untitled intaglio print from 1971. His sculptural works are in the same vein as his prints, highly geometric with a primary color palette, often with lines of white and black breaking up flat planes of color (Bogarin ‘Works’).
Bogarin is referenced in passing in a few pieces, namely his large-scale public works like Road Museum from 1982 and Speedway Museum, but there is no existing scholarship that looks into how Bogarin’s plastic prints fit into the broader plastic art movement in Venezuela during the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Perhaps one reason why Bogarin has been excluded from scholarship on Venezuelan plastic arts of this era is not a lack of significance, but a lack of clear categorization. Jupiter 6 is a geometric abstraction rather than the lyrical or figural common in print. It also isn’t kinetic; it contradicts the style of kineticism but works toward the same goal of blending art and architecture. The avant-garde at the time was highly critical of kineticism, which had been enshrined in institutions by the 1970s, but worked in different mediums and often eluded the public.
Bogarin, and Jupiter 6 in particular, is an exemplar of Greenberg’s theory of the modernist who “[uses] characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself, not in order to subvert it but in order to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence” (Greenberg, 5). The goal of geometric abstraction in its regional context—to merge the arts, namely art and architecture—is not forgone, but the methods of achieving that goal are. Bogarin follows many plastic artists who migrated to the print medium, thereby remaining in the public, political sphere that eluded the avant-garde of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Jupiter 6 exists between the lines of the Venezuelan art scene of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, defying categorization.
Bogarin, Rafael. “Homepage.” Last Modified 2018. https://rafaelbogarin.blogspot.com
Calzadilla, Juan. ” Miradas a la evolución de las artes plásticas en Venezuela.” In INTI, PRIMAVERA 2000, No. 51, 139-45. 2000.
Corso, John J. “Jesus Rafael Soto’s Entry into Political Art.” In Canadian Art Review, Vol. 38, No. 2, 124-34. 2013.
Greenberg, Clement. “Modernist Painting.” (1965) In Modern art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology eds. Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison. Harper and Row. 1982.
Palacios, Luisa, and Andrew Stasik. “Interview with Luisa Palacios.” In Print Review, No. 18, 67-72. 1984.
Traba, Marta. Art of Latin America 1900-1980. The Johns-Hopkins University Press for the Inter-American Development Bank. 1994.