Radical Ink: “Beautifully Packed Dynamite” of El Techo de la Ballena January 9, 2019

The development of modern art is the story of incessant change. The exhibition Contesting Modernity: Informalism in Venezuela, 1955–1975 highlights one global instance of frenetic visual experimentation, which was often accompanied by texts that sought to provoke revolution. On view in the exhibition are a selection of texts produced by one of the most radical artistic groups of the 20th century, El Techo de la Ballena (The Roof of the Whale).

The Power of Print
In addition to exhibitions, performances, and multidisciplinary interventions, the artists of El Techo de la Ballena developed an active printing culture, allowing for the mass distribution of illustrated poems, brochures, and other ephemera. The collective, active from 1961 to 1969, employed printed publications as key tools in critiquing Venezuelan society on both the left and the right.

El Techo de la Ballena, Rayado sobre el techo (Scratched on the Roof)
Edmundo Aray and Rodolfo Izaguire foldout designed for El Techo de la Ballena, Rayado sobre el techo (Scratched on the Roof), n° 2, May 1963, Hirsch Library, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Now on View
The publications—which one commentator aptly referred to as “a pack of beautifully packed dynamite”—promoted the group’s anarchic, violent, and aggressive stance toward politics and culture. In the galleries of Contesting Modernity, the journal Rayado sobre el techo (Scratched on the Roof), part of the Hirsch Library’s collection, is on view alongside a few other Hirsch Library selections and loans from other collections, including the Museum of Modern Art Library in New York.

See more in “Contesting Modernity: Informalism in Venezuela, 1955–1975,” on view in the Beck Building through January 21. The Hirsch Library, located in the Law Building, is open to the public, free of charge.