Genaro Moreno, Venezuelan (1921 - 1991)

Genaro Moreno

He was born in Maracaibo, Zulia State, Venezuela, on September 19th, 1921, and passed away in Caracas, Venezuela, on December 29th, 1991.

Genaro Moreno, a Venezuelan painter, was a member of the Group of “Dissidents of Paris”, between 1949 and 1953. He studied at the Artistic Circle of Zulia, in Maracaibo, and, at the same time, he frequented the “Julio Arraga” School of Visual Arts, in Maracaibo, between 1939 and 1944. In 1945, Genaro formally began his studies of “Pure Art” in the School of Arts of Caracas, under the direction of Antonio Monsanto. During those years Genero Moreno was influenced by Paul Cézanne, a French post-impressionist painter considered as the father of modern art.
Between the years of 1945 and 1948 his works were exhibited in the Zulia State Library, the Commerce Club of Maracaibo, the Fine Arts Center of Maracaibo, the Arturo Michelena Hall in Valencia, the Planchart Hall in Caracas, the Athenaeum of Caracas, and the National Official Hall.

During that time, Genaro was fond of photography. He compiled a great visual record of Maracaibo and the construction and modernity of the city of Caracas during the 1940s. His life was spent in the School of Arts, but his economic precariousness – typical of the times for artists – forced him to survive in various ways.

He shared with his fellow artists Omar Carreño, Víctor Valera, Daniel Rincón y Ángel Hurtado, among others. It was a new generation of artists that began to emerge at odds with the former school of figurative and landscape art.

At that time, on April 16th, 1948, Antonio Edmundo Monsanto, painter, instructor and historian of the Venezuelan art, passed away. His death hit many painters, Genaro Moreno among them. Monsanto was recognized as guardian of some of the most important artists of the second half of the twentieth century in Venezuela. Anecdotally, Ángel Hurtado affirmed – according to notes published online at - that “During his funeral, Reverón made portraits of Hurtado, Genaro Moreno and Gerardo Diaz”

With a Fauvist technique, Genaro, in 1949, made his first solo exposition at the Taller Libre de Artes, in Caracas, led by painter Alirio Oramas. Genero Moreno presented 40 works, “Saco Rojo” among the most important of them. 

Genaro Moreno is expelled from the School of Visual Arts on April 15th, 1950, along with José Maraver, Emma García, Ornar Carreño, Ángel Hurtado, Víctor Valera, Jacobo Borges, Alirio Rodríguez, Bauer, Bricelis, Madera, Tovar y Urdaneta, after having carried a collective exposition at the Athenaeum of Caracas where they requested, under protest, the resign of their Director due to the way he ran the School under the old paradigms of plastic arts.

That same year he left to Paris, and would then join the “Group of Dissidents”, making himself part of the international constructivist movement.

Genaro Moreno endorses the famous “No Manifesto”, a public statement including the principles of the Group of Dissidents, which was published in Paris, on June 30th, 1950, by the artists Rafael Zapata, Bernardo Chataing, Régulo Pérez, Genaro Moreno , Omar Carreño, Pascual Navarro, Mateo Manaure, Carlos González Bogen, Perán Erminy, Rubén Núñez, Narciso Debourg, Dora Hersen, Aimée Battistini y J. R. Guillent Pérez.
While in Paris, he won the First Prize at the Zulia University Hall, in Venezuela.

In Paris, Genaro Moreno met Jean Paul Sartre, who initially seduced him with the existentialist idea to which he later resigned. Genaro frequented Parisian cafes, sharing the post-war artistic atmosphere with Jesús Soto, Omar Carreño, Régulo Pérez, Víctor Valera, among others. In his bohemian nights chatting he met Edith Piaf, with whom he grew a friendship. During the day he painted and also attended courses on restoration of works of art at the University of Paris.

 “When I arrived to Paris – Genaro said – I saw a great exposition of Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky, making new referrals to the plastics, they were revolutionizing art. It was important for us, painters, to have a visual information that we had not had before and that Paris did provide”.

On November 28th, 1950, he made an exhibit at the Barbizon Gallery, in Paris, entitled “Pure Forms, Space and Color”, considered as the first solo exhibition of geometric abstraction made by a Venezuelan in Paris. Until then, exhibits from Venezuelan artists had only been collective. In that same Gallery, in 1951, he exhibited a series entitled “Geometric Paintings”. 

In Caracas, during the years of 1951 and 1952, he exhibited at the works entitled “Pure Forms, Space and Color”, but with variations of objects, at the Taller de Arte Libre.

He returns to Paris in 1952 for a few years. He started to work in a new exhibit entitled “Composition in Geometry”, opened in 1953, at the Centre Saint Jacques Gallery. 

Bélgica Rodríguez refers about these works: “At the beginning, Genaro Moreno was influenced by the ortogonal system of the Stijil Group. His compositions consisted of a lattice formed by verticals and horizontals, forming squares in their intersection points. The color remained piecemeal enclosed in a frame that was, at the same time, the background on which the colored squares and rectangles rested. This approach differs from the Mondrian proposition, to whom the dynamic equilibrium – principle of pure painting – involves conceiving the square as an extensible fragment and, therefore, without real borders/edges, its projection being then subject to the variations determined by the extension or covered area, the intensity and color location in the plane. Genero Moreno has continued to develop this isometric plan, now with greater freedom, freedom that comes to assign a representative or symbolic value to color” (Bélgica Rodríguez. “La Pintura Abstracta en Venezuela, 1945-1965”. Galería de Arte Nacional. 1980).

Furthermore, Ernesto J. Guevara, curator of the virtual gallery section of the Journal of the Dean of General Studies of the Simón Bolívar University, in its Chapter entitled “Geometric Abstraction in Venezuela”, says: “Another consideration of space can be constructed from the presence of color, which is fundamental part in the process of human vision. Unlike a metaphorical concept of space, which derives from the prior example, the reasoning in this case addresses the less effort with which the retina focuses on warmer colors such as yellow, as opposed to gray, which is seemed “farther”. This spatial relationship, from what can be called color distances, is what is shown in a work like the one untitled 1/30 (1953) of Genero Moreno. The black color has an important role in the visual effect achieved, as it determines some sort of outer depth in which space reactions between colored geometric forms take place. But if the black color is the background, then white, due to its luminosity, acts as the closest sign to the viewer. From color white and into the suggested depth by the black background, all the forms that partake in the composition are located according to their color and size”. (See Universali@linea).
He exhibited once again at the Taller Libre de Arte, in 1955, under the technique of objects with mirrors and copper sheets in wood panot. (T). That same year he made an exhibit with the so-called “Independents” at the Museum of Fine Arts.
In 1956, Miguel Arroyo, Vásquez Brito, Juan Calzadilla and Genaro Moreno organize an exhibit of Rafael Monasterios in honor to his long career as a professor (See Rafael Monasterio (1884-1984) “Regiones para la Imagen”. Galería de Arte Nacional. Caracas. 1985).
In 1957, Genero Moreo traveled to Madrid, Spain, with his wife and partner Carmen de Moreno Zapata, also an artist, and his two daughters Maria Coromoto and Maria Esperanza. Months later, in Madrid, on November 19th, 1957, his son Genaro Moreno was born. Carmen, also an artist, devoted to abstraction, painted many works that were very much appreciated by the audience. 

For 1959, Genaro Moreno settled in the Zulia State, his homeland, where he performed duties as the Director of the “Julio Arraga” School of Fine Arts of Maracaibo, until 1961.
That same year, Genaro Moreno definitely settled in Caracas and began a new stage in his artistic career, and that is how, in 1974, he exhibited “Composition in Geometry” in the Humboldt Hall, recreating new paint techniques (acrylic on canvas) and refining the plastics criteria in which he had already ventured while in Paris, in 1950.

In 1975 he broke the white-black-red dynamic and established “Parallels in Color” (Foto 17), (Foto 18), which is exhibited at the Carmelo Fernandez Gallery. From this exhibition, only twenty works are known under the technique of enamel on wood, a unique and innovative plastic richness. In 1976 he opened a new exposition at the Carmelo Fernandez Gallery, entitled “Geometric Movement of Color” (Foto 19), (Foto 20).
These works would also be exposed, that same year, at the Toulouse Lautrec Gallery, in Maracaibo, Zulia State. In this regard, Juan Calzadilla, Venezuelan art critic said: “Genaro Moreno has been, among the artists from the 1950 generation, one of the least understood; perhaps due to the fact that there were many years without him showing his works… Some abstracts as Rubén Núñez and Moreno himself were carrying at that time – if we were to believe on the testimony from Perán Erminy – researches that were intuiting or pressing forward to kinetic art”.
In 1977 he was invited to the spaces of the CONAC, former National Council of Culture, to expose his collection “Pure Forms, Space and Color”.

In 1978 he opened an exhibition entitled “Concrete Art – Dynamic Space”, (Foto 21), (Foto 22) at the Carmelo Fernandez Gallery, in Caracas. In reference to this, Peran Erminy said: “The new proposed solutions, and the rethinking under new approaches, of the problems on which Genaro Moreno had been working, especially in regard to chromatic relationships of the geometric planes, in which virtual and visual animation of the painted surfaces was shared; while it means – in a way – a continuation of the same conceptions and the same line of research to which the artist has always remained devoted, from remote times when he joined the “Dissidents Group”, it comes to mean more than a big step of improvement, a qualitative leap to which, from all the prior and accumulated experiences, a new and different result is crystallized”.
In 1979 he exposed that same series of thirty work, entitled “Art Concret – Espace Dynamique” at the Vercamer Gallery, in Paris, where he received several compliments from Parisian critiques, among them Gaston Dhiel in “Le Nouvea Monde” (Paris, February 1979), who said: “Moreno has achieved, as evidenced in the canvas gathered here, to operate a remarkable personal synthesis between the rigorous constructivism of rich colored ranges and certain elements used by the kinetics. With a lively insight he achieves a vivacious and varied suggestion of a space punctuated by rhythms of a doubtless monumental power”.

Meanwhile, the “Le Nouveau Journal” (Paris, February 17th, 1978), stated: “in the pursuit of movement and depth, he is constantly renewed in his canvas with a remarkable dynamism to which one cannot remain indifferent to such wealth of invention and lush of color, making every one of these works a dazzling firework”.
He was selected, in 1979, to participate in a collective of painters from Andean countries at an exposition entitled “Ten Years of Andean Culture”, promoted by the Andean Pact (organization of countries belonging to the Andes of Latin America), with headquarters in Lima, Peru, and sponsored by the CONAC.

Genaro Moreno continued revolutionizing within geometry and presented “Modular Symmetry, in Carmelo Fernandez Gallery, in 1979. A year later he was invited by the Valor-Arte Gallery of the Tamanaco Hotel to expose thirty new works of “Modular Symmetry”.

In 1980, the National Art Gallery includes him in the famous collective exhibition “Constructive Venezuelan Art, 1945-1965: Genesis and Development”, with Belgica Rodriguez as the main curator of the exhibition. Two of his most important works, entitled “Geometric Composition” (Paris, 1953), were included, and are part of the collection of the National Art Gallery (See Digital Catalogue from Bienes Culturales, from the National Museums Foundation, of 2007).
That same year he was invited to participate in the collective of painters entitled “Moments of the Venezuelan Painting in the Twentieth Century”, at the Venezuelan Center for Culture in Bogota, Colombia.

In 1981 he exhibited “Kinetic Energy” at the “Carmelo Fernandez” Gallery, in Caracas. Perhaps this is the exhibition of more expectations for the painter, in his last decades. The mobility of his compositions seems to move towards new creative spaces. This exhibition was very well received by his fans, critiques and general public. “It is an open space of forms that meet, collide and explode, creating other objects in a space where they reproduce themselves”, argues Genero, “I keep working on four lines, without circles. Now, what has happened, is that I am not satisfied with the static, so I seek a movement that does not force the viewer to move”.
That same year, he was selected for the First National Biennial of Visual Arts of the Museum of Fine Arts of Caracas. The multi-chromatic work assembled in four pieces of acrylic and mirrors on wood was worthy of praise in the Biennial. 
He made an exhibit entitled “Virtual Vision”  in 1983, at the Carmelo Fernandez Gallery, in Caracas.

During those years, Genaro Moreno was also a professor of “Pure Art” at the “Cristobal Rojas” School of Fine Arts, and professor of Art at the Francisco de Miranda University, in Caracas.

In 1986, he is invited by the Municipal Council of the Federal District to conduct a retrospective of his work, which Genaro Moreno called “40 Years of Geometric Painting”.

In the occasion of the “Day of the Visual Artist”, on May 10th, 1989, a tribute to the painter Armando Reverón was held in the Spiral Gallery of the “Cristobal Rojas” School of Visual Arts, in Caracas, that included, among other activities, the exhibition of “40 Years of Geometric Painting”. This would be the last exhibition in the life of Genaro Moreno.

That same year a documentary on various Venezuelan artists was filmed by the Division of Educational Technology of the Ministry of Education, including Genero Moreno, and was later published by Channel 5, in national television. Perhaps this is the only visual record of this Venezuelan artist. 

In that interview, Genaro said: “I have insisted in my geometric painting. I am the only one that remains, as all who were in the Group of Dissidents have left constructivism… I insist in my art, no matter if it is commercial or not… I have found everything, I have not look for it, one thing leads me to the other”.

On August 11th, 1989, Genaro Moreno is admitted to a clinic, as a result of a cerebrovascular disease that paralyzed the left side of his body, where he survived after thirty days in the intensive care unit. His abilities, obviously diminished, forced him to cease such a neat and nourished artistic production, which had began at the age of fifteen (foto 30). That same month, on the 26th of August, his children organized an auction of works of art to collect funds for the payment of his hospitalization at a private clinic. The generosity of the Gabriel Bracho Gallery and his family made possibly this auction that received works of art from painters that included Gabriel Bracho, Mateo Manaure, Alirio Rodriguez, Omar Carreño, Guevara Moreno, Régulo Pérez, Manuel Espinosa, Manuel Quintana Castillo, Cornelius Zitman, Luisa Richter, Virgilio Trompiz, Manuel Quintana Castillo, among others.

In the last months of his active life, Genaro Moreno had carried out an exhibition, hitherto unpublished, of twenty-five works of large format, of a great conceptual richness, which overflowed his creativity as an artist.

They were accelerated pace in his life, engaging 24 hours, during continuous days, to his hard creative work. It seems like he had anticipated the early outcome of his life. Those were times in which Genaro rediscovered the Russian poet Vladimir Maiakovski, “the poet of the Russian Revolution”, as he was called, and who in 1930 committed suicide leaving behind a poetic text that Genaro paraphrased in a premonitory way: “As they say, history is over. The love boat has crashed against the everyday life… Be happy”.

Genaro Moreno passed away on the early morning of December 29th, 1991, in his house of El Llanito, in Caracas, surrounded of his closest relatives, his wife Carmen Emilia de Moreno Zapata plastic artist and eternal companion of Genaro, and his six children, Maria Coromoto, Maria Esperanza, Genaro, Gerardo, Guillermo and Luis Felipe. He still lives through them and through the artistic legacy of his works.

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