In July 1960, works by Fernández-Muro, Grilo, Ocampo, Sakai, and Testa adorned the galleries of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes thanks to an invitation from its director at the time, Jorge Romero Brest. Almost sixty years after that iconic show entitled “Cinco pintores,” Roldan Moderno is pleased to recognize Romero Brest’s vision and the effort he put into the development of Argentine art from the second half of the twentieth century. But, mostly, we are privileged to remember and honor a milestone in Argentine art history: The Grupo de los Cinco.
Groupings by generation, affinity, or even chance events can conspire against the individuality of artists, who find themselves awash in the traits of a given school. While the production of these five artists is marked by a form of abstraction that mutates the rigors of geometry and by a poetic use of color to create intense atmospheres, none of them loses his aesthetic uniqueness or distinction. Their work is enchanting as a whole because its disparate materialities and styles underscore the singularity of each one’s production. Though the group took shape due to the affinity and respect that bound its members, each continued down his own path, reflecting his own creative vision even in the sole joint show of their work.
Ultimately, the identification of them as a group was the work of Romero Brest, who was crucial to the development of their careers as artists of an intermediate generation with a promising future, but mostly to making the most of the international potential of their work. Indeed, an exhibition of their production at the most prestigious institution for the dissemination and legitimation of the visual arts in Argentina at the time was a way of bearing out that premonition.
In retrospect, we can see where Brest’s affirmations led soon after they were made: Ocampo’s fruitful spell in Paris in the sixties; Grilo and Fernández Muro’s triumph in New York before they moved to Madrid; Testa’s prolific career that, though based in Argentina, was in constant dialogue with Europe and the United States; and Sakai’s success in Mexico before moving permanently to Dallas.
Voluntary or forced exiles, historical events and big little triumphs marked to a greater or lesser extent the careers of five artists who, as Romero Brest predicted, were recognized and celebrated in the most important collections of modern art in Argentina and beyond.