Narciso Debourg attended the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Aplicadas in Caracas from 1940-1945. While a student he joined a group colleagues in a strike organized to protest the academic system that they considered old- fashioned. The strike paralyzed the institution and the group was expelled. From this movement emerged the groups Barraca de Maripérez and Barraca de Guaicaipuro, the latter founded by Debourg, Rubén Núñez, and Perán Erminy, and others. In 1948, Debourg participated in the Taller Libre de Arte. Until then, he was a figurative painter but he moved on to Cubism. The following year he traveled to Paris and became one of the first Venezuelans to embrace abstract painting, as well as its varients in kinetic art. In 1950, he co-founded Los Disidentes, a group of artists and intellectuals living in Paris who rebelled against Venezuela’s old cultural trends and promoted a movement of aesthetic revolution that promoted geometrical abstraction.
In 1951, influenced by Constructivism, Debourg began experimenting with what would occupy him for his rest of his life: the repetition of small geometric forms, flat at first, and later cubical and cylindrical, regularly placed on the support of the work and cut diagonally to produce rhythmical alterations of light. Some of the works were monochromes and the effects were very subtle and, in others, the color differentiated the background of the small surfaces where cuts had been made, producing dynamic undulations. As of 1964, Debourg added to previously solid forms hollow cylinders cut diagonally to create new luminous spatial relations.
He participated in important international kinetic art exhibitions, including the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles (Paris, 1951-1955), Primera muestra de arte abstracto (Galería Cuatro Muros, Caracas, 1952), Oltre la pittura. Oltre la scultura. Ricerche d’arte visiva (la Bussola, Turin, Italy, 1963), Arte programmata e cinetica (1953/1963), L’ultima avanguardia (Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy, 1963), and Lumière et mouvement (Musée d’ Art Moderne of the Ville of Paris, Paris, 1967). Throughout the sixties he participated in the exhibitions organized by the movement Nouvelle Tendance.
Debourg’s first solo exhibitions took place in Europe (Galleria Cadario, Milan, 1963, and Signals London, London, 1965). It was not until 1969, however, that he showed his work in Caracas at a retrospective exhibition organized by the Galeria Estudio Actual. The majority of his pieces were painted wood assemblages, but he also presented canvases and a motorized sculpture. Shortly thereafter, he began to integrate his work into architectural settings: Cobalto-plata, Mural blanco and Pyramide for the financial company Finalven (Caracas, 1971 and 1980); Tres diagonales (Estación Chacaíto, Metro de Caracas, 1985); Columna divergente (Espacio Castiglione, Paris, 1990); and Ultramarino vibrante (Torre Mariana, Caracas, 1992). In 1994, he presented a solo show in Venezuela titled Diagonales (Galería Altamira).
Narciso Debourg lives and works in Paris.