The two ceramics

Parallel Modernities. Notes on Artistic Modernity in the Southern Cone of Latin America: The Case of Paraguay [au]Ticio Escobar [trans]Translated by Hilary Macartney


In November 1994, Juana Marta Rodas and her daughter Julia Isídrez, resident potters of the Caaguasú company in the village of Itá, received from the international jury the most important prize for the plastic arts that was then awarded in the country (Gran Premio de la Bienal Martel de Artes Visuales). From pre-colonial times it was the mothers who transmitted to their daughters the secrets of ceramics, a craft which, since then, has survived the impact of different adversities, preserving the original alchemy of the technique and the sure outline of its forms. But although well secured to the foundations of this tradition, the images of these ceramists unexpectedly acknowledge the challenge of new influences, of distinct functions, of other airs of their own time. Well then, what do they have to do with Mestiza history and the tradition of earthenware, these capricious pieces, these dramatic sculptures that appear to respond more to the deliriums of an urban artist than to the serene invention produced in the fields? It is unquestionable that these artist–artisans continue naming a territory that already produced forms in clay long before the Colony. But likewise it is obvious that they express a definitively different sphere, a space into which have filtered other perceptions and other ways of seeing the same landscape, which is already no longer the same. These disturbing sculptures demonstrate that, considered in themselves, neither tradition nor modernity offers guarantees, nor do they constitute threats; what legitimizes the symbols that the one or the other produces is the truth that feeds them both. And the truth of Juana Marta and of Julia is that of an ambiguous time and a torn present. The labour of expressing it fully supposes an intense effort and requires secure, solid forms, figures that are further behind the origin and above the barrier traced by the modern threshold.