2019 Art History M.A. graduate Adriana Obiols-Roca was recently awarded the Stone Center for Latin American Studies' Donald Robertson Prize for best paper in the Humanities by a Latin American Studies Graduate Student. This award honors Donald Robertson, a professor of Art History at Tulane for more than 25 years and a pioneer in the field of Latin American art history. He authored the groundbreakingMexican Manuscript Painting of the Early Colonial Period: The Metropolitan Schools, and motivated a generation of budding Art Historians and Ethnohistorians.
Adriana's award-winning paper, "The Battle of the Whale: Bataillean Aesthetics in El Techo de la Ballena," analyzed the 1960s Venezuelan artistic and literary group El Techo de la Ballena, in relation to the dissident surrealism of French writer Georges Bataille. While El Techo has been the focus of sustained analysis on the part of literary critics, the group’s artistic production has received comparatively less attention. Their artistic production has previously been understood as part of a continuation of postwar gestural abstraction, and as a rejection of the geometric abstract art and modernist architecture that characterized the developmentalist state in 1950s-70s Venezuela. However, Adriana’s paper convincingly argues that El Techo’s practice should not be understood as a belated modernist project, but as quintessentially of its time, as a particularly Venezuelan take on the 1960s neo-avant-garde strategies of entropy, base materiality, and assemblage.