Biography

1945 – 1964
The civil registration record that rest in the archives at the Fourth Notary Office of Barranquilla says that “on October 27th 1945, 6 pm, born in the municipality of Barranquilla, Republic of Colombia, a child was given the name of Álvaro, legitimate son of Juan B. Barrios Herrera, dentist by profession, and Mrs. Nelly Vasquez, house wife by profession, both from Cartagena.”His parents decided to move to Barranquilla to set up a dental office, shortly after marrying. Once there, in the traditional neighborhood of El Prado, Barrios began school life in kindergarten with the brother of the painter Cecilia Porras, where the artist Manolo Vellojín also attended, with whom he began a great lifelong friendship with. He completed his elementary and high school studies at the Colegio Biffi, an institution regulated by the Lasallian Brothers of the Christian Schools, where he developed his passion for drawing, especially for comics that he bought at the bookstore. About his childhood he recalls:

 

I spent my childhood in a Barranquilla that moves against time, and that had no desire for anything […] From my observatory -the roof of my house- I drew everything I saw on the street. I drew things, people, cars … and I used to put pigeons in all of my drawings. I kept drawing and drawing. My geography, history, and mathematics notebooks had a page for homework and another for drawings. This was constant during my school and even during my university years. My life was nourished by fantasy thanks to the Brothers Grimm books and the comic strips that I devoured one after another. 1

 

Despite choosing to study architecture at the Universidad del Atlántica, Barrios maintained a close relationship with art and he attended classes at the Escuela de Bellas Artes (Barranquilla) when Alejandro Obregón was a professor there. He remembers that he had to enter the classroom stealthily, using a ladder installed by his classmates in a window, as he was not formally registered. For this last reason, the secretary in charge had forbidden him to attend class.

 

1965
His first exhibition was at the Galería Casa de Don Benito in Cartagena. Afterwards, he exhibited at Galería Picasso in Medellín and at the Casa de la Cultura in Manizales. Barrios commented on these early works: “In 1965 I was especially interested in the sense of nostalgia that comics transmitted in me and it was then when I made my first collages with images from the world of Dick Tracy, this passion was attributed to some to the “zeitgeist” that in those days was called pop art. Actually it was the continuation of a childhood during which I selected two hundred comics cut from newspapers, collected them in rolls, numbered, dated and hand-colored them. I dedicated myself to translating one kind of art to another, since obviously comics were, “the great art of the future” as Alejandro Jodorowsky called them, and gave my drawings an atmosphere that filled me so fully that it was not important for me to give a too deep explanation for such works.” 2

 

Barrios sent some drawings to the Mexican magazine of Latin American poetry El Corno Emplumado and these were published to illustrate the work of the poet Ernesto Cardenal. Through this publication would begin a long correspondence and friendship between Barrios and the Nadaist poet Gonzalo Arango. In this regard, he comments: “We began a long friendship of correspondence, through which he asked me to illustrate some of his works. I felt very flattered, because Fernando Botero and Alejandro Obregón had already illustrated two works of Gonzalo.” 3

 

1966
He had his first solo exhibition in Barranquilla: “Dibujos, collages y cómics” (Drawings, collages and comics) at Galería La Escuela.

 

He participated in the Dante Alighieri National Salon at the Galería Colseguros in Bogotá, obtaining second prize with his work “Comedia” (Comedy): a collage of images with popular icons and events of the era. In regard to “Comedia,” he wrote:

 

“When Critics saw the work, they decreed that I had been greatly influenced from the pop movement and from Lichtenstein. And it was the first time I heard mention these two words!” 4

 

He won second prize in the Regional Salon of Painter Croydon which took place at Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá.

 

He won first prize in drawing at Salon Goya.

 

In October, he showed a collage called Los días más felices de Superman (The Happiest Days of Superman) in the XVIII National Salon installed at the Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango.

 

He has his first solo exhibition at the Galería Colseguros in Bogotá presented by Gonzalo Arango.

 

Barrios’ world is a psychedelic one -if we want to use the explanatory buzzword-, it is rich in images that overlap, become transparent, reveal themselves, and insinuate themselves, all with the fear of discovering that which truly lies at the bottom, but that can, nonetheless, be seen. In this sense Barrios shares this desire to hide what is called unseemly, and is a cynical ally of those who try to disguise it. But Barrios solves his own problem with humor, and the makeup he uses makes it evident and inconcealable. Hence, the first reaction to his paintings is a lucky and happy feeling toward the contemplation of such a fantasy world inherited from Bosch, but then the vision is destroyed once one senses something lurking in the background: the myths and sins of Barrios, which are the myths and sins of everybody: the relationship between good and evil which is the structure of an entire society that lives by defining the former and the latter to guide its steps puritanically. Then, sex signifies the unspeakable, the criminal is the embarrassing actions, and the mentally ill represent ineffectiveness and inefficiency. These become his gallery of characters representing the situations that Barrios fears but would like to bravely accept with love, as living things that are connected to us. Barrios is not a rebel, but he would like to be one. He would like to be a libertine, but is formal and respects order. Then he refers to his myths and barely points at them, without yelling or expressing anger, and continues to be what he is: a shy, frightened bourgeois who is also afraid of the power of his works. But, in any case, his aspirations are still evident in his collages, desires that are everybody’s secrets, the shameful secrets common to the weakness of all men. And, for the public, it is unacceptable to find them surrounded by so much beauty, just as if it were nothing. Is there anything more daring? 5

 

1967
He exhibited at the Galería El Zaguán in Cartagena, his Homenaje a Fea Cristina (Homage to Ugly Christine), an anti-heroine in the Dick Tracy comic.

 

Invited by Marta Traba, he has his first solo exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno (Bogotá).

 

Participated in the XIX National Salon installed at the Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, wih his works entitled Que la dicha y la felicidad le sonrían en el amanecer de cada dia del año nuevo de 1930 (May the Joy and Happiness Smile at the Dawn of Each New Year’s Day 1930). This montage or image collage achieved a rare sense of unity in which the elements of comics and ink traces made a powerful and oddly timeless image.

 

Thanks to the award won at the Salon Dante, and a promotion of the Italian Line, which gave the students a free ticket back home, he traveled to Italy and studied painting and art history for three months at the University of Perugia for foreigners.

 

He then studied art history with Giulio Carlo Argan at the Giorgio Cini Fondazione in Venice.

 

While studying in Europe he exhibited at the International Artists Homage to Dante in Florence. He also participated in the Third International Salon of Comics organized by the mayoralty of the city of Lucca.

 

In the summer he attended the exhibition “The image space” in Foligno, which would give him the idea to propose to Marta Traba the exhibition “Environmental Spaces.” This exhibition that was held the next year in Bogotá.

 

In the fall, he saw a work of Duchamp for the first time in the Guggenheim Foundation in Venice. The work was entitled Sad Young Man on a Train. Years before, Barrios had read some theories about this french artist in which he claimed that art was a mirage that should be soaked in poetry and knowledge.

 

This idea influenced him deeply and it would be the beginning of a constant reflection on the work of Duchamp. He was also interested in the theories and paintings of surrealism, especially Lost Jockey by René Magritte 6, although he clarifies that the true surreal basis in his work are from his childhood in Barranquilla and its proximity to the Nadaist poets.

 

1968
Upon returning from Europe, he had a solo exhibition at the Galería Marta Traba. In this exhibition catalog, an interview is published from the previous year in Paris where the artist expresses: “the corny and the bizarre are key elements of my work. One lives forever in danger of being isolated from the common things, because our civilization has an unbridled desire of culture» 7. In December, the exhibition opened entitled “Espacios ambientales” (Environmental Spaces) organized by Marta Traba at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá. Besides Barrios, the artists who participated were Santiago Cardenas, Ana Mercedes Hoyos, Feliza Bursztyn and the mason Victor Celso Muñoz. Works were made for specific spaces that allowed public participation in different ways. These works were called “environments” and were pioneering for “installation art” in Colombia. On this occasion, Barrios presented Pasatiempo con luz intermitente (Pastime with intermittent light), a work consisting of folding metal chairs in red, arranged in the manner of a theater, each one had a light bulb assembly of the same color on the back that lit intermittently. In front of the chairs he put a sphere two meters in diameter covered with comic strips. From the back of a chair a pair of hands came out made of gloves having scissors as if they wanted to cut the comic, and finally, there was chopped comic strips all the way down the stairs leading to the entrance of the Museum.

 

I do not think it was an extraordinary work. Its name, Pastime with a flashing light, is relevant because, in the end, it was a bit of that, a pastime, although I did not intend it to be so. […] However, the sole reaction that it provoked among the students who destroyed it the next day shows that it was just an innocuous piece. 8

 

He participates in the first Bienal de Pintura Coltejer.

 

The hypertrophy of the artistic work, which goes to the detriment of its meanings, and the harsh, brazen, and olympic meaning that it possesses due to such growth can also be seen in the works of an exceptional draughtsman: Álvaro Barrios, who brought comics into Colombian contemporary art. Barrios used, with surprising naturalness, this repertoire which, from the photographs of Rudolph Valentino to the bubbles where Superman lays its threatening intentions, lives off the most picturesque aspects of the twentieth century, provided that such picturesqueness has departed from the most snobbish and sophisticated classes of society.

 

His personal ability to integrate glued paper cuttings with ink and the malleability of his design that quickly resolves and integrates old photographies while getting tangled up in the visceral conceptions of neofiguration, places him well above the mediocre level of simple artists who adapt resources to their technical proposals. He takes utmost advantage of these resources, conferring upon them a highly satirical tone that lacks a specific purpose but is directed against everything and everyone. Contrary to Pedro Alcántara, however, he is not a critic, but a humorist without cruelty. That is why, even if they could be associated with neofiguration, his images fully lack the spirit of that group and nimbly swim against the current of pop art. In Barrios’ work, as in all the previous artists excluding Ana Mercedes Hoyos, the dramatic spirit disappears. These artists festively spin the double mask of drama and choose comedy.

 

Barrios is a remarkable comedian; in his second solo exhibition (1968) he leaves the plastic attachments that he had during his first period (color, collages, comics) to pursue a cleaner style in drawing, one whose imaginative details are more unexpected and which is purposely surrounded by some kind of good cheesiness that approaches the arabesque and art nouveau styles. From that state, he jumps effortlessly towards copies and assemblies where kitsch art triumphs without reluctance.

 

From the corrosively humorous synthesis of Beatriz González to the drawings with silver inlay where Álvaro Barrios gives birth to chains, hair, faces, and bodies that are more or less twisted beyond recognition, we traverse a ramp that rises up to full sophistication. 9

 

1969
In the XX Colombian National Salon of Artists in Bogotá, emerged a great polemic. Artists that had not been accepted, critics and even some of the participants expressed their disagreement with the selection and the award prizes. “David Manzur declined to mention that the jury had granted Bernardo Salcedo and Alvaro Barrios the prize for their works and the latter had also rejected the third prize offered by the Sociedad Colombiana de Artes Plásticas 10. That year Marta Traba convened a side event with the rejected artists, which would take place at the Museo de Arte Moderno (Bogotá). Yet the University Director would not allow it because the Museum was located on the campus. This caused friction between the two institutions and raised the need for autonomy for the Museum.

 

He participated in the XX Colombian National Salon of Artists in Bogotá with his work Tarjeta sepia (Sepia Card), a three-dimensional collage assembled in a wooden box. In this work he combines different techniques of drawing in graphite and ink, setting relief from the extrapolation of cuts in the drawings.

 

He exhibited at the French Alliance (Colombia, Barranquilla). In the catalog, Barrios replaced his photograph by one of the American actor Clint Eastwood. This is the first indication of the artist’s interest in the identity change inspired by Marcel Duchamp, who created Rrose Sélavy in 1921, his female pseudonym.

 

He has a solo exhibition at the Museo La Tertulia in Cali.
He participated in a drawing exhibition, at the Banco de la República, Barranquilla.

 

1970
He participated in the II Biennial Coltejer in Medellín with the three-dimensional drawing titled Tarjeta-estuche en memoria de Brian Jones (Card-case in memory of Brian Jones).

 

He became part of the Pan American Exhibition of Graphic Arts organized by the Museo La Tertulia , Cali.

 

He began his career as a professor on the Faculty of Architecture at the Universidad del Atlántico at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Barranquilla.

 

1971
He was chosen to represent Colombia at the VII Biennial of Paris. On this occasion he exhibited an installation titled El Mar Caribe (The Caribbean Sea): sixty sheets of paper with serigraphs of color blue corresponding to the color of the sea, used in conventional maps. He also added to each sheet, coordinates of a specific location in the Caribbean Sea. These blue serigraphs hung like clothes on ropes above the public’s heads.

 

The catalog and poster of the biennial explained: “The work of Barrios was born in a pictorial tradition and it is explained through a series of historical factors within the development of Colombian art in the last 30 years. Like most Latin American countries, Colombia has experienced a period of transition between its own artistic expression and the one of the contemporary world” 11

 

His works became part of the I American Biennial of Graphic Arts organized by the Museo La Tertulia, Cali.

 

1972
He participated in the III Biennial Coltejer in Medellín and in the exhibition “Hacia un perfil del arte latinoamericano” (Towards a profile of Latin American art) at the Museo Emilio Caraffa in Córdoba, Argentina. A year later, this exhibition was taken to the Galería Amadís in Madrid.

 

In June, three Barranquilla newspapers, Diario del Caribe, El Heraldo and El Nacional published advertisements made by Barrios for Cafetería Almendra Tropical. The artist thought that the inclusion in media such as newspapers would make his production reach thousands of readers. He stated these prints were originals and signed them for free for the interested public. Thus arose the concept of Popular prints, a series that changed the ideas of limited edition prints. Important institutions like the Museum of Modern Art in New York and specialized magazines became interested in this work. 12

 

1974
He participated in the IX Biennial of  Tokyo, where he was awarded the Gold Medal for one of his Popular prints. This work was published on October 3rd by the newspaper Diario del Caribe, Barranquilla.

 

He creates and directs the Galería Álvaro Barrios in partnership with Ricardo González Ripoll and Guillermo Marín.

 

He was appointed director of the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Barranquilla.

 

He exhibited in “Art Systems in Latin America” in the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels and soon after at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

 

His work was part of the exhibition Latin American Art at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Hamburg, Germany.

 

He participated in the exhibition “Arte de Colombia en Caracas” (Art of Colombia in Caracas) at the Eugenio Mendoza Foundation, Caracas.

 

1975
He was chosen to represent Colombia at the XIII São Paulo Biennial.

 

He participated in the I Latin-American Colloquium of Communication in Buenos Aires, he also published a Popular Print in the newsletter for this event.

 

He exhibited in “Art and ideology in Latin America” at the Agora Studio, Maastrich, Netherlands

 

1976
He participated in the VI Biennial of Cracovia with a Popular print, published on February 20th by the newspaper El Heraldo, Barranquilla.

 

Another Popular Print was published on May 6th in the newspaper El Pueblo, included in the Biennial of Cali.

 

1977
He had an exhibition with Beatriz Gonzalez at the Museo de Arte Moderno (Bogotá) On February 27th a Popular Print was published in the newspaper El Espectador.

 

His work was part of the exhibition “Los Novísimos Colombianos” (The Newest Colombians) at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Imbert, Caracas.

 

He participated in the Biennial of Maracaibo with a Popular Print published in June by the magazine Laura in Bogotá.

 

He also participated in the Biennial of Engraving of Cali and in the exhibition “Colombian Figurative Graphics” at the Museum of Art at the University of Texas, USA.

 

At the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá, he signed 600 free catalogs. These catalogs, like the Popular prints, were also numbered.

 

1978
He started working on the series Sueños con Marcel Duchamp (Dreams about Marcel Duchamp). Initially this work served as a print that was reproduced in the press with the profile picture of the French artist.  In front of this face were some blank lines to fill, the signature of Barrios and instructions inviting the reader to write a dream. He later made a second version of the same work, but in this case it was the artist who wrote his own “dreams” with careful handwriting. In these texts there are constructed fictions which relate to the varied interests of Barrios: art history, esotericism, fantasy, surrealism, art as idea, all of which is expressed with a great sense of humor. 13

 

From this moment on, the particular interest in the work of Marcel Duchamp opened several lines of operation and research in the artistic production of Barrios.

 

1979
He participated in the First Latin American Triennial of Engraving in Buenos Aires, where he won the Grand Prize with one of his Popular prints. This print was published in August by the newspaper El Mundo in Medellín.

 

1980
In May he participated in a joint exhibition with Juan Camilo Uribe in the Museo de Arte Moderno la Tertulia in Cali, presenting his version of Duchamp’s Large Glass. His interpretation consisted of a structure made from glass, wood, and aluminum in which Barrios included clippings, objects, drawings, and paintings of works made from 1964 to until then. It was developed based on the visual impression left by the work of the French artist, on a reading from the Green Box which gathered Duchamp’s notes for his piece, and on the interpretations of different authors, in particular that of Octavio Paz: “Marcel Duchamp o El Castillo de la Pureza” (Marcel Duchamp or the Castle of Purity). 14

 

In the exhibition Barrios also emphasized his personal interest in philosophy and occultism when he wrote: “The introduction to my catalog was the transcription of a spiritual session that alludes to the use of literature in my Sueños con Marcel Duchamp (Dreams about Marcel Duchamp).

 

The show’s catalog included a photograph of two people dressed as Marcel Duchamp and Rrose Sélavy. In this respect he stated: “The persons representing those two characters make the change in identity in concept only, because in the photograph they continue to be the same physically). 15

 

While setting up Barrios’ Pequeño Gran Vidrio (Small Large Glass) in Cali, another work emerged that he called Sueño con el espíritu guía del Gran Vidrio (Dream about the Great Spirit of the Large Glass). It was the shadow of the work, projected and magnified on the wall. In the show there were also three works entitled Marcel Duchamp enseña a Francis Picabia su Gran Vidrio en el Museo de Arte de Filadelfia (Marcel Duchamp shows Francis Picabia his Large Glass in the Philadelphia Museum of Art), Richard Hamilton enseña a Marcel Duchamp su versión del Gran Vidrio en la Tate Gallery (Richard Hamilton shows Marcel Duchamp his Version of Large Glass at the Tate Gallery) and  Álvaro Barrios enseña a Marcel Duchamp y a Richard Hamilton su versión del Gran Vidrio en el Museo La Tertulia (Alvaro Barrios shows Marcel Duchamp and Richard Hamilton his Version of Large Glass in the Museo La Tertulia).

 

Three months later he moved his Pequeño Gran Vidrio (Small Large Glass) to Galería Garcés Velázquez in Bogotá. During the move the glass cracked, just as had occurred with the work by Duchamp. Barrios related in this respect: “Although this and other coincidences could be considered trivial, relative to the value of my work to Duchamp’s, on a personal level, and as the first “eye witness” to my own work, they of course enrich the esoteric investigation I began in 1972.” 16

 

“In my exhibition at Galería Garcés Velázquez [Bogotá, 1980] my lack of interest was made evident in what is known as ‘style’ in the work of an artist: drawings, watercolors, objects, letters, photographs, flyers, and projections of shadows, etc. made up a heterogeneous whole, with the Duchamp theme as the common denominator.» 17

 

He showed his work in Galería Nueve in Lima.

 

In November, Barrios presented the exhibition Raros, preciosos y bellos (Rare, Precious, and Beautiful) in the Centro de Arte Actual in Pereira. This show was one of the projects derived from the work Sueños con Marcel Duchamp (Dreams about Marcel Duchamp), because it was based on imagining a proposal by Duchamp for a Bad Art Museum. As the name indicates, all the works shown would have been rejected by critics, both traditional and avant-garde. The exhibition included found objects collected by the artist that had been imbued with an emotional or symbolic value in earlier years, now lost from memory. He thus rescues them so that the spectator can build different relationships with common objects presented as art. It also subverted judgment as to whether or not the show fulfilled an artistic function into a decision made by the public. In this respect he commented: “I thought converting these rare, precious and beautiful objects into art was good because I wanted to be a good artist at all times. To justify including them in a Museum, I thought about Marcel Duchamp’s dictum about how anything can be transformed into art when the artist is the one who chooses the thing, but then I mused that perhaps the effort was worthless.” 18

 

In the catalog for this exhibition, a friend took his place for the photograph (compensation portrait).

 

He curated the exhibition entitled “Un arte para los años ochenta” (An art for the Eighties) that toured the country beginning that year and until 1981. It began in the Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia in Cali, then moved on to the Centro de Arte Actual in Pereira, and concluded the tour in Galería Garcés Velázquez in Bogotá.

 

1981
His retrospective was organized in the Sala Cultural Avianca in Barranquilla. “It was when Avianca proposed a 20 year restrospective that my project of a “false retrospective” emerged, where I could make–in 1981–representations of all my “styles” beginning from 1965–the year in which I consciously acquired the disease of style–mixing them, altering them and inventing  anti-standards for them, allowing me licenses that I did not have when they emerged.” 19

 

He participated in the IV San Juan Print Biennial.

 

He presented the project Las obras de arte muy malas son muy buenas (Very Bad Works of Art are Very Good) from the Museo Duchamp del Arte Malo (Duchamp Museum for Bad Art), for the IV Biennial of Coltejer in Medellín. “It consisted of an original work by Fernando de Szyszlo and next to that work was the correspondence exchanged between the director of the Biennial and myself [Barrios]. The theory is that there are two types of criticism.  One type is conservative, for which all avant-garde exploration is bad. […] The opposite is avant-garde criticism that believes the investigative and exploratory work to be good and believes academic works to be bad. The dynamic between the two positions validates everything.” 20

 

1982
He participated in “Kunster aus Lateinamerika” at the Gallery DAAD in Berlín.

 

1983
He participated in Feria Arco 83 in Madrid, Spain.

 

The “Artists Books” show at Franklin Furnace in New York included works by Barrios.

 

He began to work on the series of watercolors on Canaletto and Duchamp in Venice: Instalación de un monumento público en Venecia (Installation of a Public Monument in Venice) and Llegada de una obra de Marcel Duchamp a Venecia (Arrival of a Marcel Duchamp work in Venice). The images present the works of Duchamp enlarged and turned into great monuments scattered around the city.

 

1984
He participated in I Havana Biennial, Cuba.

 

1985
He participated in the Norwegian International Print Biennial, Fredrikstad, Norway.

 

1986
In May, he presented “Veinte años entre la Idea y el Sueño” (Twenty Years between the Idea and the Dream), his retrospective at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá, with more than one hundred works from his entire career.

 

“This retrospective includes works from the era of my drawings tinted with tea and sketched with a quill. That was a neo-figurative period, combined with some of the comic strip elements that later evolved toward drawing in white, black, and red. Later on, in the seventies, they included the use of electric light, and then there are works done at the beginning of 1980 when I began my investigation into Marcel Duchamp.” 21

 

He also presented the series entitled “Una retrospectiva falsa” (A False Retrospective), exhibited within the project Museo Duchamp del Arte Malo (Duchamp Museum of Bad Art).

 

He was named curator, together with Alberto Sierra, of the exhibition “Colombian Contemporary Art” at Mall Galleries, London, and at Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels.

 

He participated in the travelling exhibition “Cien años de arte colombiano” (One Hundred Years of Colombian Art) in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Rome.

 

His work was included in the exhibition “Dibujar en cinco tiempos” (Draw Five Times), along with that of Beatriz González, María de la Paz Jaramillo and Óscar Muñoz in Galería Siete Siete in Caracas, Venezuela.

 

1987
A retrospective of his graphic works was organized at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Cartagena, as well as an individual exhibition in the Galería Salammbo in Paris based on the nudes by German photographer Wilhem von Gloeden.

 

1988
He began to form the advisory committee to select the participants in the I Biennial de Bogotá in the Museo de Arte Moderno.

 

He exhibited all of his work on Duchamp in a solo show entitled “Una pequeña antología” (A Little Anthology) in the Sala Mendoza in Caracas, Venezuela.

 

1989
In March he showed his Retrospectiva falsa (False Retrospective) at Galería Alfred Wild. “The works he presents in Bogotá appear to have been made from 1964 to 1989, however they were all done last year. Each one contains a revision of its own history. Art is a time machine. It travels and recaptures any image from the past and brings it to the present. That is why Barrios’ work must be observed with imagination and freedom. Because his images bring together two remote realities, where neither truth nor lies matter, but only the possibility of being present.” 22

 

1990
He exhibited in the Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia in Cali and in the Museo Bolivariano de Arte Contemporáneo in Santa Marta, Colombia.

 

His work was included in the exhibition “Arte contemporáneo colombiano” (Contemporary Colombian Art) shown at the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum in Japan.

 

He participated in the show “Figuración, fabulación: 75 años de pintura en Latin America” (Figuration, Fabulation: 75 Years of Painting in Latin America) at the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas, Venezuela.

 

1991
He participated in the exhibition “Latin American Drawings Today” at the San Diego Museum of Art.

 

1992
He participated in Expo-Sevilla 92, as part of the representationof contemporary Colombian art in the Pabellón de las Artes, Seville, Spain.

 

Galería Alfred Wild in Bogotá hosted his solo show called “Historias sagradas contadas otra vez” (Sacred Stories Told Again).

 

1993
He participated in the XXXV National Salon of Artists, Bogotá, Colombia.

 

1994
He participated in the XXXVI National Salon of artists, Bogotá, Colombia.

 

His work is included in “El Juguete” (The toy), an exhibition organized at the Galería El Museo, Bogotá.

 

1995
In the Sala de Arte de Suramericana de Seguros in Medellín he showcased the series Los cincuenta caminos de la vida (The Fifty Paths of Life). These works returned to the collage technique, based on a lithographic reproduction of a landscape by the nineteenth century Colombian artist Francisco Antonio Cano. The art critic Alberto Sierra wrote: “The collages entitled The Fifty Paths in Life can be read as the pages of a diary permeated by a piece of his particular sense of humor, his interest for spirituality hidden in the symbols of the apparent world and the fiction that serves his strange poetic art.” 23

 

1996
Barrios participated in the exhibition “América Latina 96” in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

He installed his series Los Cincuenta Caminos de la vida (The Fifty Paths of Life) at Galería Garcés Velázquez in Bogotá. In the catalog written by Alberto Sierra one read: “The series’ title refers to the well-known metaphor that life is a path, or rather, many paths. The titles of each piece are written in oil on the frames, and constitute an invitation to meditate, they are doors that open to new worlds. For Barrios, however, it is not just a “small path buried by the sands of time,” as Juan de Dios Filiberto would say, but rather an idea closer to Gonzalo Arango’s sentence: “What matters is not the goal, which is ephemeral, but the path, which is eternal.” 24

 

1997
Barrios participated in the exhibition organized by the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, “Do it —Hágalo usted mismo” (Do it–Do-it-yourself).

 

The Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango in Bogotá acquired the complete collection of his Popular Prints and organized the exhibition entitled “Obra gráfica de Álvaro Barrios” (Graphic Work by Alvaro Barrios), which included a new version of the work El Mar Caribe (The Caribbean Sea). The artist gave a conference on his Popular Prints.

 

The series Los cincuenta caminos de la vida (The Fifty Paths of Life) toured the country. It was shown in the Museo de arte Moderno La Tertulia in Cali, the Museo de Arte in Pereira, the Museo de Arte Moderno in Cartagena, and the Museo de Arte Moderno in Barranquilla.

 

1998
The Museo Nacional de la Estampa in Mexico City organized the exhibition: “Obra gráfica de Álvaro Barrios”, (Graphic Work by Alvaro Barrios).

 

Within the framework of the Luis Caballero prize he presented the work Ars Longa Vita Brevis, an installation piece in which he set up large letters on the floor of the Galería Santafé in wood and coal that formed the phrase by Hippocrates that gave the name to the piece. On the wall he hung six original works by dead artists, while the song “O Caritas” by Cat Stevens played over and over in the background.  Alberto Sierra comments: “Ars Longa Vita Brevis was a work that I feel is a spiritual commitment to a generation and a group of humans who work with art. It is a look at the artist and the duration of his discourse with society, his fragility and his longing to remain, without his remaining implying eternity. A search for poetry between what is fleeting and what is permanent. The works and the memory of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, Francisco de Goya, Jean Tinguely, Carlos Rojas and Luis Caballero and the music of Cat Stevens created a spellbinding moment that made one forget the very objects themselves, urging them to be immediate memories, vital and profound, and giving meaning to the recent decades.” 25

 

1999
Barrios participated in “Latin America: Vanguards at the End of the Millennium” at the Culturgest Fundação in Lisbon, Portugal.

 

His work was included in the exhibition “Arte y violencia en Colombia desde 1948” (Art and Violence in Colombia since 1948) in the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá.

 

He exhibited in a group show El paisaje interpretado (The Landscape Interpreted) in the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango in Bogotá.

 

The show Body Art in the American Museum of Natural History in New York included works by Barrios.

 

2000
He presented Los cincuenta caminos de la vida (The Fifty Paths of Life) at the Centro de Artes Visuales in Lima, Peru.

 

Barrios was curator for “Arte contemporáneo del Caribe Colombiano” (Contemporary Art of the Colombian Caribbean), a traveling exhibition that began in Casa de las Américas in Havana, Cuba, and continued to museums in Maracaibo, Port of Spain and Jamaica.

 

The District Institute of Culture and Tourism in Bogotá published his book Orígenes del arte conceptual en Colombia (Origins of Conceptual Art in Colombia), winner of the prize for historical essay on Colombian Art at the end of the Millennium.

 

2001
He received the Latin American prize for Painting and Mixed Media at the I Biennial of Buenos Aires at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At that same event, the international prize was won by Joseph Kosuth and the prize for video was won by Nam June Paik.

 

2002
He took Los cincuenta caminos de la vida (The Fifty Paths of Life) to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he gave a conference on his Popular Prints.

 

2004

Barrios participated in “Trans/Migrations: Graphics as Contemporary Art” as part of the Poly/Graphic San Juan Triennial. He exhibited a new version of his work El Mar Caribe (The Caribbean Sea). For that event he selected a fragment of the sea separating Puerto Rico from Florida and a fragment that joins it with Latin America. In the auditorium at theUniversidad de Puerto Rico he gave another conference on the Popular Prints.

 

The Caribbean Sea is one of the first installations made in Colombia, and indeed the only one that consists solely of prints. The Caribbean Sea consists of a series of paper sheets with a deep blue colored rectangle printed on both sides using serigraphy. The sheets are lined up in rows and hang above the viewer’s head, in areas through which people pass frequently. Viewers can thus see them from both directions. Each serigraph is signed by Álvaro Barrios and has the latitude and longitude coordinates for a particular spot in the sea on one of the faces, while the other face has coordinates for a different sea.

 

For the First San Juan Triennial Polygraphic Contest, Álvaro Barrios made a new version of the installation, this time with different geographic coordinates. That is to say, the coordinates now refer to two seas that have different meanings for Puerto Rican people: the sea that separates this Island from the United States, and the sea that connects it with the rest of Latin America. In a context of a double cultural and political membership, Barrios’ installation found an echo in Puerto Rico, where the sea is the symbol of both its independent insularity and its historical relationship with the Latin American continent.

 

A significant number of his Popular Prints were acquired for the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

 

He participated in the show “MoMA at El Museo: Latin American and Caribbean Art from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, at El Museo del Barrio, New York, United States.

 

2006
The Museo Nacional in Colombia acquired a series of his Popular prints.

 

Barrios was featured in a solo show at Galería Mundo in Bogotá.

 

2007
Part of his Popular Prints and Sueños con Marcel Duchamp (Dreams About Marcel Duchamp) were included in the exhibition “New Perspectives in Latin American Art 1930-2006: Selections from a Decade of Acquisitions” by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

 

He curated the show entitled “Orígenes del arte conceptual en Colombia” (Origins of Conceptual Art in Colombia) installed at the Museo de Antioquia in Medellín. The idea for the exhibition came from the book with the same name written by Barrios that compiled reflections by the artists who had participated in the show “Espacios ambientales” (Environmental Spaces), organized in 1968 in the Museo de Arte Moderno in Bogotá.

 

2008
Barrios was invited to read his Sueños con Marcel Duchamp (Dreams about Marcel Duchamp) at The Celeste Bartos Theater at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of the Modern Poets program organized by that institution’s Department of Education, in the company of Fernando Bryce.

 

His work was the subject of a solo show in the Nohra Haime Gallery in New York, entitled Dreams About Marcel Duchamp.

 

On November 19, the New York newspaper The Village Voice published a Popular print that was distributed for free and signed at the Nohra Haime Gallery.

 

On November 30, the newspaper El Tiempo in Bogotá published the largest edition of a Popular print, made up of 465,000 issues that were signed for free.

 

2009
He had an solo show at the Jacob Witzenhausen Gallery in Amsterdam. On the occasion of the show, the first Popular print was published that could be downloaded from the internet and signed for free on the night of the inauguration.

 

2010
Barrios was featured in a solo show, ¡Aunque Ud. no lo crea! (Believe it or not!) in the Galería Alonso Garcés in Bogotá. Coinciding with the show, a Popular print was issued in the form of a flyer.

 

The Foundation Daros-Latin America in Zurich acquired a selection of his works.

 

He was included in the show “Latin American Conceptualism I” at the Henrique Faria Fine Art gallery in New York.

 

The J. P. Morgan Chase Bank acquired one of his works for its collection of international art.

 

2011
The exhibition “Dreaming” was held at the Henrique Faria Fine Art gallery in New York, from March 3 to April 9. The sheets of paper in El Mar Caribe (The Caribbean Sea) were published as a Popular print.

 

A Popular print was published in the magazine Arte al Día Internacional.

 

The Publishing Fund at the Museo de Antioquia published a second edition of Orígenes del arte conceptual en Colombia.

 

Álvaro Barrios participates in the exhibition Sistemas, Acciones y Procesos 1965-1975 (Systems, Actions and Processes 1965-1975). Fundación Proa. Buenos Aires.

 

2012

The Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain de Lorraine France, aquired the work El Mar Caribe (The Caribbean Sea).

 

 

Notes

1.    Barrios, Álvaro, Sus sueños pinturas son, (His dreams paintings are). Revista Diners, year XXVI, N. 245, Bogotá, August, 1990.
2.    Barrios, Álvaro, «Génesis de una idea» (Genesis of an Idea), in Revista de Medellín.
3.    Barrios, Álvaro, «Conversación con Álvaro Barrios» (Conversation with Alvaro Barrios), in Orígenes del arte conceptual en Colombia, 1968-1978. Bogotá: Alcaldía Mayor, 2000, page 71.
4.    Barrios, Álvaro, Sus sueños pinturas son (His Dreams Paintings Are), en Revista Diners, año XXVI, No. 245, Bogotá, August, 1990.
5.    Olarte, F. en «Cuatro monstruos viscerales» (Four Visceral Monsters), en Magazín Dominical, El Espectador, July 10, 1966.
6.    Barrios, Álvaro, “Génesis de una idea” (Genesis of an Idea), Exposición Retrospectiva de Álvaro Barrios 1961-1981 (Álvaro Barrios:
a retrospective exhibition 1961-1981), Sala Cultural de Avianca, Barranquilla, 1981.
7.    Catalogo de la exposición: Álvaro Barrios, Algunos documentos (Exhibition Catalog: Alvaro Barrios, Some documents), Galería Marta Traba, Bogotá, 1968.
8.    Barrios, Álvaro, “Conversación con Álvaro Barrios” (Conversation with Alvaro Barrios), in Orígenes del arte conceptual en Colombia, 1968-1978 (Origins of Conceptual Art in Colombia, 1968-1978). Bogotá: Alcaldía Mayor, 2000, pág. 77.
9.    Traba, Marta. Historia abierta del arte colombiano (Open History of Colombian Art). Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, first edition, 1984, págs 250-251.
10.    Calderón, Camilo. 50 años Salón Nacional de Artistas (50 years, National Salon of Artists) Bogotá: Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1990, Page 171.
11.    Catálogo de la exposición: VII Bienal de París (Catalog of the exhibition: VII Biennial of Paris), Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, Imprenta Nacional, 1971.
12.    Catálogo de la exposición: Obra gráfica de Álvaro Barrios, (Catalog of the exhibition: Graphic Work of Alvaro Barrios). Banco de la República, Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Bogotá, 1997.
13.    Barrios, Álvaro, “Génesis de una idea” (Genesis of an Idea), Exposición Retrospectiva de Álvaro Barrios 1961-1981, (Álvaro Barrios: A Retrospective Exhibition 1961-1981). Sala Cultural de Avianca, Barranquilla, Catalog, October 1981.
14.    Barrios, Álvaro. Génesis de una idea (Genesis of an Idea). Salón cultural Avianca Barranquilla. Catalog. October 1981.
15.    Ibídem.
16.    Ibid.
17.    Ibid.
18.    Raros, preciosos y bellos (Rare, Precious, and Beautiful). Álvaro Barrios. Centro de Arte Actual de Pereira. November 7, 1980.
19.    Ibídem.
20.    Galindo, Margarita, 25 años de trabajo cuelga Barrios en MAM de Bogotá, (Barrios Hangs 25 years of Work at the MAM in Bogota), Dominical, El Heraldo. May 4, 1986, Barranquilla, Page 3b.
21.    Ibídem.
22.    Escallón, Ana María, El arte es la máquina del tiempo (Art is the Time Machine), in La Prensa, February 19, 1989, Page 28.
23.    Exhibition catalog: Los cincuenta caminos de la vida, Obras recientes de Álvaro Barrios, (The Fifty Paths of Life, Recent Works by Alvaro Barrios) Sala de Arte Suramericana de Seguros, Medellín, 1995.
24.    Exhibition catalog: Los cincuenta caminos de la vida, Obras recientes de Álvaro Barrios, (The Fifty Paths of Life, Recent Works by Alvaro Barrios). Galería Garcés Velásquez. Bogotá, 1996.
25.    Catálogo de la exposición. Premio Luis Caballero (Exhibition Catalog, Premio Luis Caballero). 1998.