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    Does present-day Latin American art exist as a distinct expression? If It does, on what terms? / Juan Acha
    2 Leaves
    English; Spanish
    Typed sheet – Conferences
    Juan Acha, “Does Present-Day Latin American Art Exist as a Distinct Expression? If It Does, on What Terms?” Paper read at Speak out! Charla! Bate-Papo!: Contemporary Art and Literature in Latin America, Symposium organized by Damián Bayón in The University of Texas at Austin, October, 1975. Benson Latin American Collection, Rare Books, The University of Texas at Austin.
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In this text, Juan Acha poses the question, “Does present-day Latin American art exist as a distinct expression?”, that is, as a way of examining the broader and more fundamental question of what constitutes an original aesthetic expression. He contends that, although works are shaped to different degrees by historical and geographical context, the most basic measure of what Acha calls “distinctiveness” in art is a “uniqueness” that “. . . may equally be either foreign or local.” The critic also contends that Latin American identity is a slippery, diverse, and often ambitious entity, and that art that in some way expresses this quality of “. . . becoming and wishing to become. . .” is often most successful in conveying a Latin American aspect of “esthetic uniqueness.” In contrast, artists that deliberately give their art a “Latin American stamp” inevitably fail to create works of aesthetic merit. Acha concludes by arguing that there are three main reasons Latin American art is not of higher quality: First, the field of critics, artists, theorists and historians is limited to too small a number. Second, Latin America’s art has not had long enough to develop (he marks 1920 as the end of the “colonial period”). And, third, the concept of art is too narrowly confined and does not encompass, as it should, a broad sector of cultural consumers and producers, as well as the means for disseminating culture.



The critic and theorist Juan Acha (1911-95) was born in Peru and moved to Mexico in 1971 where he wrote extensively about modern and contemporary Latin American art. In this text—delivered in 1975 at a conference at the University of Texas at Austin—by engaging with the question of whether or not a Latin American aesthetic existed, and if so, which were its defining qualities, Acha addresses a question of great concern for critics since the 1920s. When he wrote this text, contemporaries that were asking similar questions included Damián Carlos Bayón (1915-95) and Marta Traba (1923-83). Acha distinguishes himself in this text, however, by challenging his readers to consider how Latin American artistic production could be made more aesthetically “unique,” if notions of art and its production were radically expanded and substantially strengthened.


María C. Gaztambide
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA
Courtesy of the personal archives of Mtra. Mahia Biblos, Mexico City, Mexico
Benson Latin American Collection, Rare Books, University of Texas, Austin