Since the 1950s, the search for roots in pre-Hispanic culture has characterized the activity of many Peruvian artists. In the following decade, the first experiences of pop art appeared on the art scene (which had the support of industrial and financial groups) flanked by geometric and, in a more limited way, conceptual research. The foundations of experiences of a peculiarly national character have been laid on these trends.
According to indexdotcom, the national reformism of General J. Velasco Alvarado, president of the Peru from 1968 to 1975, involved artists who, with the support of the state – an unprecedented event in Peru – have undertaken to investigate the urban and rural reality and, in harmony with the government policy, they tried to fit into the urban space, involving the masses with popular demonstrations. This trend has been called Pop achorado by J. Ruiz Durand (b. 1940), who found a source of inspiration in the Agrarian Reform undertaken by Velasco Alvarado in 1969; with a government grant, Ruiz Durand and other artists campaigned to publicize the importance of reform and gain support for it. F. Mariotti (b.1943) and L. Arias Vera (b.1932) were promoters, in 1971 and 1972, of Contacta, events which, like the Festivales de arte total, going beyond the purely artistic field, offered space to scholarship but also responded to mass and popular needs.
Even if the Pop achorado seems to be an overcoming of the anxieties of the 1950s, the search for the pre-Columbian sign as well as the previous indigenist movement remain constant cultural coordinates that in the artistic field highlight how much the pre-Columbian component, essential in the Peruvian unconscious, serves to create a dialectical opposition to the European model, undisputed for centuries, while from the social point of view they make us aware of the unacceptable conditions in which the Indian is kept.
In 1974 a great event was entitled Inkari, with significant reference to the Quechua myth based on the belief that the Inca, the emperor, will rise again giving prosperity to the land and freedom to the Indian people. Conceived as a ” national pyramid ”, at the top of which is Lima, the event was a container for artistic and folkloristic events, the apex of the cultural policy advocated by Velasco and, with attention to urban and rural popular life, traced another coordinate in Peruvian culture.
The enthusiasm for reformism continued even after the Velasco period ended. During the regime of General F. Morales Bermúdez (1975-80), in 1976, the Baltazar Gavilán Nacional de Cultura Prize for sculpture was awarded to the old craftsman of Ayacucho J. López Antay (1897-1981), whose activity was inserts in the tradition of colorful popular altars (retablos). In 1977 the Peruvian participation in the São Paulo Biennial was made up of popular art. At the same time, however, a trend emerged which, while drawing on this same type of art, is placed in a more erudite perspective, as a result of critical awareness. Foreign artists have also contributed to Peruvian reformism: in 1976 the Dutch painter K. Appel donated a mural to a township in Lima.
Once the symbiosis between art and state ended, at the end of the period of General Velasco Alvarado, the artists tried to ally themselves with political and trade union organizations: without effective economic support, they continued to operate outside the galleries, inventing an alternative market aimed at to a middle-class economy with a higher education level. The field of graphics was found to be particularly suitable for this purpose, and a significant example of this direction is the Huayco EPS group: Huayco is a Quechua term, which means “avalanche”; EPS is the acronym of Estética de Proyección Social, but it also corresponds to that of the Empresas de Propiedad Social, cooperative properties created and promoted during the Velasco government; and with this double reading the line of reformism is reaffirmed.
The Huayco EPS group has extended its action to unusual social denunciations and has given ironic relevance to popular myths: this sphere includes the images dedicated to Sarita Colonia, who arrived in Lima from the province and died in the middle of the century, an object of devotion in the townships. The group has made serigraphs and paintings on her like holy cards; in 1980 he made a large ” mosaic ” at the entrance to Lima, next to the Pan-American motorway, the tiles of which are made up of painted empty cans.
In addition to the artistic phenomenon curiously produced during the military dictatorship, in parallel and subsequently the panorama of Peruvian art presents different contributions: from the fantastic imagination of the painter T. Tsuchiya (1930-1984) to the surrealism of the figures that recall women, assembled with pieces of old sewing machines equipped with movement by means of electricity, by the sculptor F. Sánchez (b. 1935); from the accurate ceramic sculptures by C. Runcie (b. 1958) to the abstract neo-expressionism proposals of the painter A. Máro (b. 1928); from the figurative neo-expressionism of the painter D. Herskovitz (b. 1925) to the pictorial hyperrealism of the insinuating girls by R. Hastings (b. 1943); and, finally, the abstractionism of the sculptress L. Mutal (b. 1939). J. Tola (b. 1943),Biennial of Havana (1987), expresses in a modern language reminiscences of native myths: his figures unfold on the walls like those of the great drawings on the land of Nazca culture.