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It is only natural that formal differences exist between the work of father and son. On the contrary, it is unsettling when these are not to be found, for it suggests an overly strong weight of tradition or an overbearing influence of the father on his progeny. Nothing of this sort occurs in the work of Raoul and Ral Veroni.

A simple glance over the creations of both artists is all that is required to note the generational distance that exists between them. This could be the product of various factors: a tumultuous century, an abrupt change in aesthetic tendencies or the social variables affecting where and how their artwork is received. Other causes are to be found in the biographies of both creators, and in the technological changes that revolutionised graphics during their decades of production.

Raoul Veroni was born in Milan in 1913. Descendent of a family from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, he arrived in Argentina a babe in arms at barely 3 months of age. In 1958 he married Elsa Dominguez, a young painter from the Argentine Pampa and daughter of Spanish immigrants from Leon. Their only child, Ral, was born in Buenos Aires in 1965.

In 1937 Roberto Levillier published Rumbo Sur / Direction South, illustrated with 18 original copper plate etchings by Raoul Veroni and printed in the hand presses of the Ernesto de la Carcova Fine Art School, where he was still a student. In a tone characteristic of the era, the colophon of this edition recounts: “For the artistic evocation of settings and figures, the young painter Raoul Veroni worked closely with the author to take into account the nature of the scenes.” This book, delicately hand-composed on parchment in the publishing house of Francisco A. Colombo, would open the doors to the young painter to initiate a long-lasting and fruitful collaboration with both the publisher and the celebrated authors that frequented his premises.

In 1977, working from his own graphic studio, Raoul Veroni realized one of his last, and most exquisite, editions: Alfonsina, dedicated to the work of Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni. This edition of 50 was published on Hosho (10), Ingres (10) and Extra Strong (30) paper and was composed by hand by the artist himself, utilising all the skills learnt during his years with the Colombo family. It is illustrated with 5 lithographs and one woodcut, all printed on Veroni’s hand press. Thus a career of more than 40 years’ dedication to the book and to poetry was brought to a close, for it was at this time that the symptoms of Alzheimers slowly began to manifest themselves. Following a long illness, Raoul Veroni died in 1992.

In 1987 – some fifty years after the Levillier book and 10 years after Alfonsina - Ral Veroni, 22 year old student of the Prilidiano Pueyrredon Fine Art School, edited Reclamos en el manicomio / Remonstrations in the madhouse, a small A4 format book, stapled in the style of a fanzine. This edition of 100 featured insubordinate poetry in an erratic, punk-influenced typeface applied with an ink dropper onto photocopy paper and – interestingly – with a cover printed in woodcut on the family press.

The divergence in style was not simply the reaction to a difficult family situation. The son’s production was shaped by the political derailing of the country, the economic crises and the slow but steady disappearance of the humanists, poets and patrons: bibliophiles who over the years had encouraged and supported the work of the father. The books realized by Ral Veroni in his homeland are characterised by their large edition size and their employment of economical papers, dissimulated by an exhuberant use of vibrant screen-printing inks. These editions, though carefully crafted, were not destined for a select group of book-lovers: they were the artist’s response to the lack of exhibition spaces, and their function was as channel of communication for the work itself.

During 1989 - in the midst of the chaos of hyperinflation - the young artist printed in his own studio the edition Jaguares y Cacatuas / Jaguars and Cockatoos, a 66-page book in an edition of 250, combining poetry and texts by the artist with 31 of his original screen-prints and a series of his photocopied collages. It was at this point that Ral, continuing in the graphic tradition of his father, discovered - almost unintentionally - the genre of the artist’s book.

A further 10 years were to pass before in 1997 Ral was to find overseas the ideal circumstances to realize editions in quality paper and limited editions, thus drawing nearer to the historic bibliographic traditions. Vacuum (an edition of 10 on Inomache Nacre paper printed in New Mexico’s Tamarind Institute) and Itinerario / Itinerary (hand composed in typesetting in Bristol, UK) are two of the son’s ventures that relate most directly to the production of his father. Nevertheless, the differences are also clearly laid out, and in subsequent editions – according to the poetry or politics of the project – Ral was to go on to combine traditional techniques with the new possibilities afforded by digital technology.

The last exhibition by Raoul Veroni took place in the 10th Buenos Aires Book Fair in 1984; his books have been isolated from the public view for 23 years. In the 33rd Buenos Aires Book Fair, father and son exhibit their works together for the first time. Together they represent seven decades of creation. Viewing their works laid out together, with the perspective afforded by time, it is a great pleasure to see where this tremendous passion for the graphic, for poetry, paper and the book came from and how it continues in the present day.

Norman Mathieson
Awaji Island, Japan

   
 
   
 
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