Saturday, July 16, 2011

Art History - Juan Antonio Roda

Columbia in the 1970's was under the leadership of President Laureno Gómez. The Catholic Church imposed extreme censorship and restrictions on art and the media. As a result the artists of the region began to express this repression, it manifested itself in erotic images sometimes with religious and violent themes. Most of the artists were educated in Art History and therefore used famous works of art as jump-off points and references for their own unique art. One artist in particular was working at this time, Juan Antonio Roda, the etchings he created in the seventies are erotic, religious, and evoke the well-known Baroque artists, Carravaggio and Bernini.

Roda, born in Spain in 1921 was a remarkable draftsman, printmaker and painter. Major themes in his work were, time, pleasure and pain. Two series of etchings he created in the seventies demonstrate these themes very well. The first series entitled Delirio de las Monjas Muertas is dedicated to the deaths of nuns and how in fact they represent an end of one life and a beginning of another. The second series entitled "Amarraperros" is dedicated to captured dogs, deprived of attention and other basic needs.

The lights and darks are stark and the grey tones are scarce. In the Baroque style, objects emerge from a dark background. The figure, and the erotic nature of the subjects are aspects common to both series. They were shown together in New York City at the Noble Polans Gallery.

In colonial days it was customary to take a photograph of a deceased nun. Roda uses these photographs as inspiration for his series of Etchings entitled Delrio de las Monjas Muertas, delirium of the dead nuns. The nun, in life lived to serve and therefore did not experience all the pleasures in life. In death Roda depicts these nuns as beautiful, delicate, and erotic feminine creatures in eternal slumber. All the happiness and elation waiting for them in the afterlife is evident on their calm smirking faces. Their faces express a hint of ecstasy.

The Amarraperros series, meaning captured dogs, is a truly disturbing series of etchings depicting tired dogs, humans, ropes, and violence. The idea of time is evident in the series through the use of body language in the figures and the dogs. The idea of capturing and controlling a living creature speaks to the nature and state of Columbia at the time these etchings were created and also transcends time because the desire for power over others is universal and part of nature.

In conclusion, Roda's work is amazing and timeless. The imagery is beautiful, strong and at times shocking.

These are photos of copies from an exhibition catalog, so I apologize for the quality. There just isn't enough information about this artist, in English, on the internet, which is why I wanted to share the information I have.

Further Reading:

Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America by Jacqueline Barnitz (Barnitz was one of my professor at The University of Texas)


  1. Powerful imagery. I'm unfamiliar with Roda's work, but I'll remedy that. Thanks for the introduction. :-)

  2. There are currently two original etchings by this artist for sale on Are they really worth the price they are asking for the pair. Finding an original by this artist is extremely difficult.