top of page
Paradise Lost


Álvaro Herazo

            Friday the 4th of June, 1982, El Heraldo

Since Picasso and Braque, the use of the written word as form and message has been common within the tradition of modern art. An English movement or group named Art and Language has explored the limits of the use of language as art, proposing art as language. They are not the only ones who think, in accordance with the “avant-garde” tradition in modern art, that the field of art can be expanded through this change of direction from the formal to the written. A premise that they follow, therefore, is artistic expression through the written word. From Cali, Alicia Barney has sent El Ecológico, a work that will be displayed in the Alternative Space Sara Modiano, in June.


El Ecológico [The Ecological], a newspaper by Alicia Barney, is a work situated within the context of art. Its inclusion inside this framework is what gives the piece its polemical nature and its deep involvement with modern art’s avant-garde. In terms of technique, the work uses offset printing, collage, and rubber stamps. No other manipulation, pictorial or constructivist, is exercised upon the material used as vehicle for the “artistic idea.”


It would be a mistake to approach the work with purely visual or retinal criteria because in this newspaper from Alicia Barney, what is most important is the idea—namely, the crux of her work: ecology. It is easier to situate this periodical within the tradition of the new, in which the written word is in itself a medium of art, and which connects artists from various tendencies, including the aforementioned group Art and Language. In the case of El Ecológico, as occurs in daily newspapers, the text almost always defines and frames the image. Alicia Barney respects this principle and translates images from other contexts in order to situate them within her periodical and her art. It is a geometrical collage, precise and figurative, containing something of the idea of pop, with its elevation of objects to art. Its images are not banal. They refer to disasters that have a terrible effect on the life of man on this earth: the destruction of a forest, the death of rivers, pollution.


The visual concessions that the artist does permit herself come from the color and the dynamism introduced by the text boxes layered on the pages of El Ecológico, and which serve as support.


The work, composed of seven newspapers, is presented in the way that one typically finds such publications in libraries. The pages of the newspaper rotate on a wooden axis. In the newspaper El Ecológico, news becomes information and, little by little, culture. The work rejects the ephemeral. Its destruction by the reader is prevented by the use of transparent plastic to protect the weak parts of the paper. Alicia Barney converts the ephemeral into permanence.


El Ecológico indulges in a recent nostalgia, without excess. It refers to a romantic spirit that fits into the world of reason. All of the material is edited in Colombia and thus is a portrait of the good, the bad, and the ugly of our country. If literature has recently nourished journalism, the so-called visual arts could do so as well. The texts that the artist proposes, for her part, group the inhabitants of the earth into species, divided into two groups: those that are, and those that are not, in danger of extinction. The conflict between Thoreau and Ruskin is not resolved in this work, in which the concept of art as information comes to the forefront.


In Alicia Barney’s El Ecológico, the image continues to be slave of text, and it is very difficult to admire it in itself.


Trouble in paradise has been the theme of various landscape artists in the past and today. By reducing man to one more species on the surface of the earth, Alicia Barney turns humanity into another element of the landscape, transformed for the worse, through machinery and a lack of humanism. With this work, Alicia Barney renews the intention of remaining within the parameters of art as idea, which is known in Colombia as “conceptual art,” which nationally seems to be centered in Barranquilla.

bottom of page