Art and Architecture
THE VISUAL ARTS were one of Venezuela's strongest areas of artistic activity in the twentieth century. The European avant-garde provided the initial inspiration for a process of renovation, with the best Venezuelan artists using the forms they discovered overseas as a starting point for creating painting and sculpture of great originality and vitality. Institutions to support those arts grew more numerous as the century progressed, with some impressive museums and private galleries being founded. At the same time, new possibilities for modern architecture were created by the rapid urbanization discussed in chapter 3; some startling, often controversial, buildings were erected. It was these achievements in the second half of the twentieth century that finally drew world attention to Venezuelan art and architecture, though previous eras had produced work of cultural value and importance.
The most impressive form of ancient artistic expression found in Venezuela is petroglyphs (designs carved into rock), of which numerous examples exist in Amazonas state. Most consist of huge figures in linear form, and probably served a magical-religious function. Other art produced by pre-Hispanic communities was neither elaborate nor monumental in scale, but archaeologists have discovered a range of significant artifacts. The oldest pottery dates from about 1000 B.C. Sophisticated in technique and designs, it has certain similarities with the Chavín culture which flourished in Peru at that period. From later centuries there are examples of funeral urns, animal and human figurines in pottery, and body adornments of shells and stones.
Religious imagery dominated the art of the colonial era. Sculpture was plentiful, if not of outstanding quality, with altarpieces and carvings of saints