Plastic Arts By Francisco Alambert 2

Plastic Arts By Francisco Alambert 2

The search for a Latin American self

To a large extent, this division between countries is based on the greater or lesser relationship with the inherited indigenous culture. In this way, countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay and Guatemala, largely marked by the pre-Columbian native heritage and resistant to external influences, would be in an opposite position to the open nations of the Southern Cone, such as Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. , under constant foreign influence. These ideal types, like any basic typology, serve only to begin the reflection, since if we consider the cases of Mexico and Brazil they are clearly more problematic.

In the Mexican example, it is evident, as Leopoldo Zea's anecdote highlights, that both the presence of native culture and the constant influence of the foreign (and the creative use that it can provide) occurred in different periods. In the Brazilian case, the same thing happens, to the extent that it is a nation of continental proportions, with a historical presence of hundreds of indigenous groups, to which was added the inheritance of successive levies of African slaves and immigrants from all over the world. parts of the world.

On the other hand, things get even more complicated when referring to the Caribbean and much of Central America. In the Caribbean case, the presence and type of European colonization (or occupation) created a specific cultural circumstance that made a strong cultural relationship with the rest of America difficult. In Central America, cultural production was pressured by Mexican and North American influence, as in the cases of Puerto Rico and Panama.

Any classification that seeks to unify the history of Latin American countries or regions is doomed to criticism and dissatisfaction. But avoiding this path also means refusing to understand and evaluate differences and similarities. In any case, a survey, although always incomplete, is necessary, and what is presented here highlights the art produced in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba, especially if the century is considered. XX.

In these countries, and in their traditions, the themes that comprehensively represent the recurring problems of modern arts in the Americas are found with greater vehemence: the conflictive and creative relationship between European influence and pre-Columbian tradition (intense in the case Mexican and Colombian); the appropriation of European parameters and their changes (in the Argentine and Uruguayan cases); the conceptions and radical and creative developments of modernism (especially significant in Brazil and Venezuela); and the issue of politics and resistance, whether in the face of North American imperialism, or due to dissidence or tension in the face of communism (both typical of the Cuban case).

All this speaks of what differentiates the countries of Latin America. But there is also much that equals or identifies them. The Latin American is, in his origin, the European at the service of capitalist colonial expansion, or he is the other transplanted, integrated, enslaved or massacred by that same process. For the transplanted colonist and for the slave, America is a strange place. For the natives of the place, the extraordinary comes from the universe that colonization imposed on their world.

As the Brazilian film theorist Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes masterfully explained, Latin Americans, especially since their independence, place themselves in the specific condition of those who, being neither European nor North American, “and destitute of original culture,” nothing is “foreign” to them, and everything is. The painful construction of ourselves develops in the rarefact dialectic between non-being and being another. In this context, the visual arts had and have a central role. Its history is a long battle in that dependent condition, which seeks an identity and autonomy on equal terms with its former (and new) dominators.

The art treated here, not in a strictly chronological manner, as it is also structured in themes, is above all cultured, or scholarly art. In this panoramic vision the gigantic histories of pre-Columbian, popular or indigenous art do not appear, except in quick references. More than offering a summary of art on the continent, the objective is to search for its decisive moments, those in which the tense relationship between the foreign and the internal, the foreign and the native, becomes genuinely creative, that is, it directs an emancipation. which must be understood taking into account the desire of Latin Americans to have their art and to have the art of the world as theirs.