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In this text, Jorge Romero Brest responds to an article by Damián Bayón about what qualities make art produced by Latin American artists Latin American, and to four related questions about the nature of Latin American art which were sent to him by Revista de Artes Visuales magazine’s editor, Carla Stellweg. Romero Brest begins by noting that, even though he agrees with much of the literal meaning of Bayón’s text, he found Bayón’s grasp of artistic intent too absolute. Instead, Brest argues that the value of a work of art should be understood as something defined by experience, as always produced by the “dialectic play” that occurs in any given socio-cultural context. In four points, he responds to the questions (which are not reproduced in the text) related to the question of a Latin American aesthetic. In the first point, Romero Brest distinguishes between the “aesthetic” and “artistic,” defining “aesthetic” as a creative way of existing in the world. “Latin American aesthetic,” he argues, is not the concrete qualities found in artworks, but instead, the “conjunction of transitive and intransitive points of view.” In the second point, Romero Brest argues that aesthetic unity is impossible in Latin America because of the region’s “tremendous cultural diversity.” In the third, he calls for the investigation of “aesthetic modes” in Latin America, which encompass, “. . . gestures, movements of the body . . . fashion, inflections of the voice . . . ideas, institutions, feelings, mandates . . . in relation with the environmental characteristics determined by race, religion (as dogma or cult), the political system, morality . . .” In the fourth point, Romero Brest clarifies that, while it is impossible to locate the beginning of Latin American art in history, we can examine the question of when Latin American art began to seek out originality; and he argues that the most promising areas of aesthetic originality in Latin America are the cultures of minorities, including indigenous and Black groups, and of youth. He concludes by declaring the easel painting an impoverished and anachronistic medium for this mission.
The Argentinean critic Jorge Romero Brest (1905-89) was instrumental in promoting experimental art as the director of the Instituto [Torcuato] Di Tella in Buenos Aires during the late- 1960s. This text originally appeared in the April-June 1976 issue of Revista de Artes Visuales, a journal published in Mexico City which circulated among Latin American critics and artists living and working in Latin America, the U.S, and Europe. The questions Romero Brest responded to in it are not included. He was also responding to a text by Damián Carlos Bayón (1915-95) entitled, “Contestación a una pregunta: ¿Cuando se vuelve latinoamericano el arte en América Latina?” [Answer to a Question: When does art in Latin America become Latin American Art?], that appeared in the same issue of the magazine. In his text, Romero Brest attempts to shift the debate about the Latin American qualities of fine art from the question of art to those of the aesthetics of culture more broadly. Denouncing the practice of making and contemplating traditional forms of art, such as painting and sculpture, as anachronistic and intellectually and spiritually impoverishing, he argues instead for an understanding of a Latin American “aesthetic” that encompasses everyday experiences, mass media, and traditional arts. Romero Brest’s theorization of “art” as related to a broader understanding of Latin American culture, and as an entity that possesses a dynamic relationship with its socio-political context duly reflects his support of “happenings,” pop art, and other experimental art forms extensively carried out at the Instituto Di Tella in Buenos Aires during the late- 1960s.