Berni, Antonio (1905–1981) By Westphalen Von Hartenthal, Mariana
Antonio Berni is a central figure in 20th-century Argentinean art who employed a number of diverse mediums in his work, experimenting with a wide variety of techniques, from oil painting to collages to large sculptures. Berni frequently incorporated trash and other industrialized, humble materials, into his pieces. The artist’s complex prints, which combined traditional printmaking techniques and collage with found materials, secured him the Grand Prize for Drawing and Printmaking at the 1962 Venice Biennal. Berni’s works usually addressed the inequality and injustices he witnessed in Argentina as a result of the rapid growth in industrialization and consumerism. His works, predominantly figurative, have a cluttered, grimy aspect.
At the beginning of his career in the 1920s and early 1930s, Berni was influenced by the Surrealists, with whom he became familiar on a study trip to Europe. During the 1930s, the artist created monumental paintings; he also delineated the movement “Nuevo Realismo” (“New Realism”), an attempt to bring art to a broader audience. In 1933, Berni worked with David Alfaro Siqueiros, Lino Spilimbergo, Juan Castagnino, and Enrique Lázaro on the mural Ejercício plástico [Plastic Exercise]. He later criticized this experience on the grounds that mural painting could only exist in Argentina with the collaboration of the bourgeoisie.