The Politics of Taste

Beatriz González and Cold War Aesthetics

The Politics of Taste

Art History Publication Initiative

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Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 105 color illustrations Published: November 2019

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies

In The Politics of Taste Ana María Reyes examines the works of Colombian artist Beatriz González and Argentine-born art critic, Marta Traba, who championed González's art during Colombia's National Front coalition government (1958–74). During this critical period in Latin American art, artistic practice, art criticism, and institutional objectives came into strenuous yet productive tension. While González’s triumphant debut excited critics who wanted to cast Colombian art as modern, sophisticated, and universal, her turn to urban lowbrow culture proved deeply unsettling. Traba praised González's cursi (tacky) recycling aesthetic as daringly subversive and her strategic localism as resistant to U.S. cultural imperialism. Reyes reads González's and Traba's complex visual and textual production and their intertwined careers against Cold War modernization programs that were deeply embedded in the elite's fear of the masses and designed to avert Cuban-inspired revolution. In so doing, Reyes provides fresh insights into Colombia's social anxieties and frustrations while highlighting how interrogations of taste became vital expressions of the growing discontent with the Colombian state.


“Ana María Reyes tackles an important but understudied subject that is absolutely essential to understanding contemporary Colombian politics, culture, and society: the relationship between aesthetics and the Cold War in Colombia. Her analysis of Beatriz González's artistic practices, Marta Traba's art criticism, the institutions where they worked and exhibited, and Colombia's cultural politics and Cold War policies during the National Front period is brilliant and compelling.” — Mary Roldán, author of Blood and Fire: La Violencia in Antioquia, Colombia, 1946–1953

“In this exciting and enlightening book, Ana María Reyes provides an entirely new perspective on the art of Beatriz González, on Latin American engagements with pop, and on Marta Traba's assessment of González's work. By offering a clear sense of the cultural dynamics of the Cold War in Colombia and class politics within Bogota during this period, Reyes allows readers to better appreciate González's subject matter, style, color sensibility, and use of appropriation.” — Mary Coffey, author of Orozco’s American Epic: Myth, History, and the Melancholy of Race

“Rich, multivalent context as means to weighing Colombian Beatriz González’s early artistic production (1964–70) is exactly what this assistant professor of Latin American art at Boston University offers readers with her monograph The Politics of Taste. The author’s analysis is buttressed by field research including access to the artist’s personal archive, twelve hours of personal interviews with her, and archival work in Medellín, Colombia…. Reyes’s skillfully crafted text is the first single-author monograph on the artist in English.” — Teresa Eckmann, Art Journal


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ana María Reyes is Assistant Professor of the History of Latin American Art and Architecture at Boston University, coeditor of Simón Bolívar: Travels and Transformations of a Cultural Icon, and founding member of the Symbolic Reparations Research Project.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Dis-cursis  1
1. Vermeer in Bucaramanga, Beatriz in Bogotá  33
2. A Leap from the Domestic Sphere into the Sisga Reservoir  73
3. "Cut It Out": Impropriety at the MAMBO  113
4. Notes for an Exclusive History of Colombia  153
5. Modernist Obstruction at the Second Medellín Biennial  181
Epilogue. Underdeveloped Art for Underdeveloped People  218
Notes  231
Bibliography  283
Index  303
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0397-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0363-2