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El Renacimiento de la Otra Figuracion

Jorge de la Vega suggests that humans are violent and that violence runs rampant

throughout society, while also shedding light on the loneliness and solitude felt even

when surrounded by the rest of the world. Paintings like "El espejo inevitable," "Juego

Peligroso," and "Rompecabezas" show the many emotions that man feels and sees in his

reflection every day. Through clashing, vivid and sometimes violent color as well as

backgrounds that add a second dimension to the piece, de la Vegas balance chaos with

structure to also show the beauty of human nature.

Born March 27, 1930 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, de la Vega is not only a

painter, but also a architect, graphic designer, singer, songwriter, musician, writer, and

professor. (Pacheco, Cronologia Biografica) He is the son of a Spanish father Jose L. de

la Vega and Argentine mother, María Margaríta Lanzano. Painting was first introduced to

him through his father who painted as a hobby. When he was fourteen years old he

enrolled in the Sociedad Estímulo de Bellas Artes that used live models for artists to

paint and draw. When he was twenty years old he began to come into his own as an artist

becoming part of “nueva generacion Argentina” with other abstract painters from

Argentina. In 1960 he formed Nueva Figuracion along with Rómulo Macció y Luis

Felipe Noé. While with Nueva Figuracion he lived in Paris from 1961 to 1962 for ten

months before then moving to New York in 1965 for two years until 1967 where he
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became guest professor at Cornell University while continuing to paint. It is here that he

begins to abandon his old Nueva Figuracion style and adopt a new style of his own.

His style evolved from the abstract styles of Otra Figuracion to styles like “Pop”,

“Geografia”, “Bestiario,” and “Formacion”. His ever changing style proved that he was

not only a versatile artist but also had a keen sense of how to show human emotion and

the position of man. All of his paintings though different they are, have two things in

common, their fine balance of chaos and violent color with structure. De la Vega’s

paintings can be found all over the world in museums and collections throughout Europe

like Paris, Madrid, London, New York, Cordoba, and numerous others. De la Vega often

chooses particular details in his paintings like flowers and daily household objects. This

adds a more personal aspect to the paintings relating the bigger meaning to everyday life

and society, by using objects that connect to the home. Jorge de la Vega is also very

much influenced by painters of the nineteen-twenties and thirties such as Héctor Basaldúa

and Roberto Rossi(Castillo).

He blends aspects of cubism, expressionism and fauvismo together to create

something all his own. With Nueva Figuracion began his technique of adding human

figures in his paintings, some hidden , some in plain sight, of this technique he says “No

fuí exatamente yo quien introdujo figures humanas en me pintura; creo que fur ellas

mismas la que utilizaron para inventarse; no fue una imposicón, involuntaria sino un

encuentro natural y ahora no podría prescindir de ellas sin sentir mi voluntad expresiva.”1

“It wasn’t exactly me who introduced human figures in my artwork; I think that it was them themselves
that used me to invent themselves; it wasn’t an imposition involuntary but a discovery that was a natural
and now I can’t work with them without feeling my self-expression.”
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(de la Vega) In essence it is not him who controls the human aspect in his paintings;

instead they develop themselves using him as a device to be invented.

Otra Figuracion began as a small little known group of artists; Ernesto Deira,

Rómulo Macció, Luis Felipe Noé and Jorge de la Vega. This group had it's beginnings in

the early 1960's in Buenos Aires, Argentina at an art exhibit at the Pueser galeria from

August 26 to September 6, though now known as Nueva Figuracion it was first given the

name Otra Figuracion by Romulo Maccio. Together these artists aimed to break the

image order, good shape, the value composition, in the interests of free speech and anti-

academic. Otra Figuracion was a way for them to rebel against the geometric structure

and form of art movements from the 1940's, the movement brought informalism and

abstract expressionism together (Laurenzi).

De la Vega and his colleagues combined figuration and abstraction to emphasize

and bring out the human form in art (Laurenzi)). In de la Vegas work, this shows more so

than the others. The distorted, often sensual images in his paintings emphasized both the

formation (and oneness) and deformation of the human being both inside and physically.

His paintings convey both a separation and intertwining of the tumultous emotions of

man and the effects they have on the physical actions of the body. The burlesque twisted

bodies and emphasized visions of time and space echo the overwhelming desire to live,

be found, sense of humor, rejection of the conventions of the time and daring attitude of

de la Vega himself.

This echo is perceived clearly in "Juego Peligroso" from de la Vega's Otra

Figuracion collection. The painting consists of darkness with an array of colors and subtle
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group of human figures on one side and an almost bare white background with only one

lone figure on the other side. The lone figure appears to be bleeding while the others on

the other side of the painting watching, the group is backed by vivid colors that could

symbolize society or how society supports singling out others for their differences or

what society considers flaws. The blood could be taken in the literal sense to mean a

physical wound by a weapon or fight but it could be a metaphorical wound. The blood

could symbolize the pain felt by being an outcast targeted for nothing but being different.

It could also symbolize the pain that comes from loneliness and unwanted solitude. The

thin stick-like figures show the frailty and vulnerability of humans both physically and

emotionally. Though emaciated themselves, the group seems stronger and bigger because

they are together almost hidden by the busy background that itself represents violent and

deadly city streets like those of Buenos Aires where de la Vega originates as well as New

York where de la Vega lives for a brief period. (Pacheco, 2)

The scene in the painting emulates the rebellious over arching theme of chaos

mixed with structure. The opposing black and white show the conflict of peace versus

violence, as well as the never ending battle between good and evil. The black is up

against clashing colors that emphasize the constant struggle of life and society. It also

shows the overpowering strength of society and chaos as well as how it overwhelms all

around it. On both sides of the painting the faces vary, one seems to be smiling while the

other two seem devoid of emotion. The colors on these faces also seem to portray

something more about society. One of the faces almost fades into the shadows of the

painting symbolizing the conformity that society pressures the individual to submit to
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standing by watching as others are ridiculed for their differences. The face of the lone

individual shows the loneliness and suffering that one can experience in this world.

Other colors that conflict in this painting are blue and red. The blue alludes to the

lingering peace and kindness of mankind whereas the red symbolizes the pain, the

passion and heart of mankind. This can be seen in how the mass of red leads directly to

the lone individual’s heart. The blue though it stands out, does not take up much of the

painting, hidden behind the black and other colors around it. This also happens with the

red, however this effect subtly makes both colors stand out more. The effect makes them

seem more profound because they are bold colors, just like they are bold emotions.

Jorge de la Vegas style began to change as he began to evolve as an artist as well

as travel around the globe. His short residency in Paris was when he first began flirting

with new styles. (Pacheco,1) He began to break with Otra Figuracion and his human

forms became more apparent in his artwork. His work, some of which is still featured in

Paris (Pacheco) now began to feature more human like objects in addition to human

figures. Here is when he began to incorporate, objects like flowers, kitchen appliances as

well as other aspects of daily life. These additions help to humanize and portray man in a

finer, less violent but equally chaotic light. Here his paintings focused more on solitude

and the individual rather than an entire group of people (Mandelbaum). Instead of

cryptic, hidden images, the figures are profound and can be clearly seen. He has the

ability to add a third layer to his paintings, he can make his paintings take on a duality

with only one main figure in the painting. “El Espejo Inevitable” exemplifies this. The

piece looks not only like two solitary figures, but also like reflections of those figures.

The person seems to be both in the foreground but also in the background. The figures
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seem to be not only reflections in mirrors but also reflections in water by the way they

seem to ripple and wave in the painting. The painting alludes to how de la Vega not only

reflects in his paintings but also how man has only himself to reflect upon when he is

alone. The painting emulates how man can only blame himself for his faults and errors.

Most importantly, it emulates how his reflection is inevitable no matter what man does or

how he tries to avoid it, he must face himself and accept the truth.

His education in architecture (Pacheco, 1) begins to influence his art as he

experiments with geometric shapes in abstract art. In Geometria (de la Vega) the colors

are dull and more subdued bringing a sense of calm to these paintings. Geometria shows

the complexity of the human mind and the many layers that it has. The shapes both

compliment and conflict with each other thus giving the pieces an almost three-

dimensional appearance. The third dimension alludes to the many dimensions that man

has, as well as the many dimensions or talents and abilities that de la Vega himself has.

The paintings show the many different faces that de la Vega wears. They show his

musical side, as well as his architectural and graphic side. These are also the only

paintings that do not feature a human figure, both hidden and clear. This showcases how

de la Vega can constantly change his style and allude to his style changes in his paintings.

Though his styles may vary, all of his paintings convey the same message, a

message of protest. They protest the violence, the loneliness, the discrimination, the

ridicule and the oppression of society and tradition. He protests the norms that people in

society have come to live with, communicating this protest through abstract

groundbreaking art (Mandelbaum). One form of this is protest that he conveys through

his paintings is happiness. This happiness shows through in his “Pop” collection.
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His pop collection features bold colors as well as almost photographic images of

provocatively posed human figures with detailed, smiling life like faces. These paintings

protest against the pain and suffering caused by the global problems of the world.

“Rompecabezas” features this idea of protest through happiness. The painting features

different faces of different people broken into puzzle pieces connected by various body

parts. The faces are displayed smiling and some laughing. The painting is in black and

white, but though it is devoid of color, it seems all the more profound. De la Vega uses

his technique of intertwining the bodies, to connect each face and each emotion. De la

Vega uses this painting to challenge society by thriving under oppressing conditions as

well as “el crimen de que la pieza termina cada dia” that is to say, that the painting rebels

against the crime of a life ending every day (Mandelbaum). Rompecabezas also continues

to echo the chaotic structure of Otra Figuracion.

The smiles not only portray happiness but also a thorough enjoyment of life that

was popular throughout the nineteen- sixties & seventies. His emphasis on smiling

emulates a rejection of the serious intellectual structure of society and embraces ideals of

fun and a carefree attitude. However the paintings of the pop collection also simulate the

effect of vision through intoxication through narcotics which were also widely popular

throughout the two decades of de la Vegas artwork. The moving effect of images in

pieces like “Nunca Tuvo Novio”(Vega, de la) are similar to the effect one would

reportedly see and feel well intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics. This effect

could be used by de la Vega in two different ways. One way could be that he could be

using this effect because he wanted to show his own experiences with drugs. Or the

second way could be that he is using the effect to show that the world had become so
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corrupted and problematic that the only way to escape it and enjoy life is to use narcotics.

However it seems that the alternative to both of these is that de la Vega wants to show

how the world is “tan poderoso y artificial que por contraste el hombre adquiere relieve.”2

(Vega, de la )

Through the smiles he laughs at the artificial qualities and ideals of man as well as how

man builds his life around these material and superficial ideas and desires.

In this collection the colors also have a strong influence. Here the colors are

stronger and bolder but are also lighter and convey a different meaning. The colors are

no longer violent but peaceful and jubilant. They give a different quality to the paintings,

the vibrant pinks, yellows, greens, and oranges draw the eye in and add to the smile and

large, distorted figures. It is in this collection that the figures in de la Vegas artwork begin

to become more provocative and burlesque. Though it would seem that the colors distract

from the main part of the painting, they do not, they add to the background.

The backgrounds of many of de la Vegas paintings add another layer to his

paintings (Manrupe). In some of his older styles like Otra Figuracion de la Vegas

backgrounds often consist of dark or black colored backgrounds. The simple and muted

backgrounds were used to accentuate and emphasize the foreground and figures. The

backgrounds in his older styles deepen the painting so that the message that comes from

the piece is sad and adds to the overall theme of violence and anger, it depicts a darker

more destructive sense of chaos. The lighter, busier backgrounds of the newer styles

exude a different type of chaos. This type of chaos is unifying and productive versus


“So prosperous and artificial that the contrast acquires relief for man.”
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Apart from the colors and backgrounds of his paintings, in his “Pop” collection,

one of the many reoccurring themes is that of a portrayal of men and women together.

Though sometimes they are intertwined, many times they are painted in opposition to one

another. Many times the woman will be seen smiling while the man is intently watching

her or is portrayed with an opposite conflicting emotion. Also the men are often smaller

in the paintings where as women are much larger and are given more curves and

dimensions on their bodies.

“Nunca tuvo Novio” is a good example of this. In this painting there are only two

faces, one of a mans, and one of a woman’s. The woman’s body spreads all throughout

the piece whereas the man is isolated in one corner, the upper left hand corner. The

woman is in the forefront of the painting, where as the man is stationed behind her. The

woman is depicted with a smile on her face and brightly covered lips her face is repeated

four times in the painting all in different places. However, two of the times her face is

serious, when she is smiling her body is facing away from the man but when he face is

serious she is facing the man. The man’s face is serious and his eyes are very dark. The

man’s face is repeated only once, superimposed again over the woman’s smiling face.

These conflicting images show that de la Vega is trying to convey the many

relationships between man and woman. In the painting he shows lust and how it both

stimulates and ruins relationships between the sexes. The way de la Vega paints it, it

seems as though the woman is the one who is unimpressed with the man and is carefree

in her sexuality which would coincide with the sexual liberation and freedom of the time

period in which the painting was released. The man appears to be angry with the woman,

staring intently at her, this could be de la Vega showing the carnal desires men sometimes
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have for a women (or vice versa) however it could also be an example of men trying to

control women, the woman’s carefree attitude, independent demeanor, and nonchalant

air, could be aggravating in a time when women were still thought of as very much

subordinate to and dependent upon men. The woman’s smile gives off an air of

confidence which could also be threatening to this gentleman, he could be jealous of

another man but it is clear that de la Vega uses this conflict to show something about

interactions between men and women in society, particularly in the Argentinean society

that was largely dominated by males and age old tradition in which woman had very little

independence. With his move to North America he was exposed to a more independent,

liberal, more educated culture that women were very much a part of (Pacheco). The title

of this painting “Nunca tuvo Novio” is also interesting in that it means “she never had a

boyfriend” the effect that the title has is that it insinuates that this woman has always

been free and pure, she has never had the need or the desire for a boyfriend or man to

give herself to. The fact that she “never had a boyfriend” could also be what angers the

man or makes him jealous enough to make him look at her that particular way.

Though Jorge de la Vega is a skilled and beyond talented artist, he was also a

famed singer and songwriter, he traveled the world performing at universities and many

other different venues (Pacheco). In his music, he revealed a more personal side to

himself often using his lyrics as social commentary. He admits that his lyrics were

another form of protest that he could not convey in his artwork (Mandelbaum). He claims

that through music he can interact with his fans face to face whereas with his paintings he

can not, although his music is simply a different form of chaos combined with structure,

like Otra Figuracion.

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Though de la Vega has many talents and was able to master and express many

themes and ideas through the mediums he chooses one thing remains apparent, his

rebellious and daring attitude that challenges all to protest. His unique and vivid paintings

blend chaos with incredible beauty to throw off the confines of society and protest against

social norms that oppress and diminish the spirit of the individual. He fights back against

the loneliness, anger, disorder and violence with messages of euphoric and free sexuality

as well as happiness and lack of boundaries all while capturing the truly beautiful essence

that is human nature. His tragic and untimely death on August 26, 1971 (Pacheco, 1) stole

from the world a visionary and groundbreaking artist whose legacy can still be seen today

spanning all over the world.

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