Movimiento Espartaco




Ricardo Carpani
Argentina, 1930-1997

Los que esperan, 1959, 1970
Those who wait
Oil on canvas
150 x 200 cm

Ralli Collection


Beginnings and formation

The Spartacus Movement officially emerged in 1959 in the city of Buenos Aires, but its beginnings can be seen in joint exhibitions held by Ricardo Carpani, Mario Mollari and Juan Manuel Sánchez from 1957 onwards and in the manifesto “Por un arte revolucionario” (For revolutionary art), written in 1958 (signed by the three aforementioned artists along with Esperilio Bute, Raúl Lara and Juana Elena Diz).

The start of the movement as such came about as a result of its participation in the First River Plate Exhibition of Modern Art in Buenos Aires by invitation of Rafael Squirru. At this point the members of the group were Ricardo Carpani, Juan Manuel Sánchez, Mario Mollari, Esperilio Bute and Carlos Sessano. From this moment they became known as the Movimiento Espartaco, translated as the “Spartacus Movement”, in homage to the Spartacus League (a German labour movement of Marxist origin led by Rosa Luxemburg).

This initial line-up was joined in that same year by the photographer Tito Vallacco (who took part in just two early exhibitions by the group) and the Bolivian Raúl Lara (who was involved for just 6 months). Juana Elena Diz (who was to continue until the group was dissolved in 1968) and Pascual Di Bianco (a member until 1961) entered in 1960.

The Spartacus Movement can be divided into two periods, principally marked by Ricardo Carpani’s departure from the group. The first covers the time between 1959 and 1961, and the second between 1962 and 1968.


Several styles, one movement

The Spartacus Movement was an artistic, political and social initiative, full of revolutionary spirit and intent, just as its members understood how art should be. It stands out for its theoretical and artistic approach alike, with a use of figuration that distances itself from narrative and the employment of a modern language of synthesis. Characterised by schematic and monochrome painting, with flat neutral backgrounds in which the central figure is highlighted, its aesthetic is marked by the life-cycle of the movement itself, as well as the presence of certain members of the group and their own artistic evolution.

For Latin America, the Spartacus Movement meant offering art with its own identity based on the historical roots of the continent and the tradition of its painting, with a completely renewed language based on contemporary aesthetic proposals.

Formed by different artists who each developed his or her individual aesthetic within the movement itself, we can distinguish two specific styles from the start. On the one hand we find a type of geometric painting initiated by Carpani and Sánchez, which Di Bianco and Diz were to adhere to at the start of the 1960s. On the other hand, expressive indigenous painting by Mollari, Bute, Sessano and Lara focused more on the agricultural theme (a subject matter shared by Vallaco’s photography in his contribution to the exhibitions), which Diz was also to join at the end of the same year after her geometric stage. Cold colours predominate in the former, with warm ones in the latter. Both styles were to share the spotlight during the early years until changes in the members of the movement were to set the stage for a different panorama in 1962.

The movement was to reach a turning point in 1961. On one hand, Diz had abandoned geometrization in favour of an expressionist language focusing on gender issues. Figures were deformed, in particular the faces, seeking to highlight indigenous features, and earth tones predominated.

This, accompanied by the departure of Carpani and Di Bianco from the group (both with a geometric tendency) and the return of Sessano (who, without ever leaving the movement, spent long periods travelling), brought about a new panorama in which the expressionist tendency was now to dominate the style of the movement almost entirely. Only Sánchez maintained the geometric style of the industrial theme, being increasingly concerned with the planimetry of shapes and the use of colour.

Mollari created a language of his own within the expressionist tendency, with a use of figuration that was taken to extreme deformation, emphasising expressiveness.

Bute, whose approach was never to include the geometric aesthetic of the labour theme, developed several aesthetics throughout his involvement with the movement. Beginning within the theme of indigenous expressionism, he evolved towards a more lyrical manner of representation and identified with gender issues. His works also have a satirical theme, linked to Sessano’s work from that time.

From 1963, a new aesthetic emerged within the movement, thanks to Sessano, consisting of eclectic and free figuration. Esperilio Bute was to take part in it during the final years of his participation in the group, as would Franco Venturi when he joined. This new figurative language, freed from expressionist indigenism, inherits figurative proposals that were taking place during this decade in movements like New Figuration and narrative figuration. It was based on the free use of resources to come up with a synthesis between Americanism and the formal avant-garde.

The activity of the Spartacus Movement was brought to an end in 1968 with the exhibition held at the Witcomb Gallery, in which Bute, Carpani, Di Bianco and Lara were also invited to participate. This dissolution was the result of the advent of new critical approaches in Argentine art, this being a reflection of the change for which they had been fighting for years. At this point the members of the group agreed to separate in order to continue developing their concerns and ideology independently.

Although they were now individual artists, this was not the last time they exhibited together as their work still had aspects in common. Thus, they once again produced a joint exhibition in both Argentina and Spain during the 1980s.

In this exhibition we can revisit the body of work that represents the Spartacus ideology, displaying the variety of styles and languages that came together in the same movement through the lens of the individual development of the artists that were part of it.


Artists who are part of the exhibition:

Ricardo Carpani (Buenos Aires, 1930-1997)
Mario Mollari (Buenos Aires, 1930-2010)
Juan Manuel Sánchez (Buenos Aires, 1930-2016)
Esperilio Bute (Buenos Aires, 1931-2003)
Juana Elena Diz (Buenos Aires, 1925-unknown)
Pascual Di Bianco (Buenos Aires, 1930-1978)
Carlos Sessano (Buenos Aires, 1935)


The exhibition consists of works from the Ralli Collection and the private collection of Eduardo Bute Sánchez de Hoyos, thanks to which it has been possible to provide a comprehensive overview of the Spartacus Movement and its various tendencies.

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