The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this text, Rita Eder argues that it is worth considering how Latin American art can distinguish itself from European art, and that it has done this at several points in its history by developing radical ways to integrate art into society. Eder begins by affirming the necessity of grappling with the problem of what constitutes Latin American art and culture, and by recounting how this problem preoccupied numerous Latin American intellectuals and artists at the beginning of the twentieth-century, such as José Enrique Rodó in literature and José Clemente Orozco in painting. She notes that there has been a resurgence of interest in this question recently, and argues that, in the course of addressing it, intellectuals’ primary task is to free Latin American art from a dependence on European theories of art that emphasize “style.” Instead, Eder proposes that a new understanding of Latin American art should be based on art’s nexus with social history, and she argues that this follows new theoretical models for art in which the object is valued less and the process of making and showing art more. In Latin America, Eder argues, artists have always been interested in making art that radically engages the public sphere and attempts to effect social change. These tendencies can be traced to Mexican muralism, and currently (during the late- 1970s) have a particularly strong presence in art being made by Latin Americans.
Rita Eder is a critic and art historian living and working in Mexico City. Among other issues, since the 1970s she has written about conceptual art, theory, and the relationship between Latin American artists and Europe and the United States. Her text, “Why a Latin American Art?” appeared in an issue of Journal: Southern California Art Magazine (1979) devoted to Latin American art. The content of this special issue of the Journal reflected the predominance of politically engaged conceptual art in Latin America during the 1970s, including works and texts by Luis Camnitzer (b. 1937), Hélio Oiticica (1937-81), No-Grupo, and others. Reflecting her allegiance to these kinds of artists, Eder’s text argues that the quality which distinguishes contemporary Latin American art from that of Europe and the United States is its radical degree of social and political engagement. (This kind of work, in her words, involves making the spectator an integral part of the work itself, and facilitating the production of art by untrained members of the public.) Eder traces this tendency to the theories of the Mexican mural painters in the 1920s, but she sees its most successful iteration in contemporary groups such as Tucumán Arde and T.I.P. (“Taller de Investigación Plástica” [Workshop for Visual Arts Research]) operating in Argentina and Mexico, respectively.