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In this text, Aracy Amaral considers the strong negative responses provoked by a work entitled Etsedrón in the 1975 (XIII) São Paulo Biennial. She argues that this work provoked such responses because of its visceral power and because it is completely different from the type of work that viewers are accustomed to seeing at the biennial, which looks like it could be “. . . imported from Europe or New York.” Viewers and critics have no framework by which to judge this work, Amaral argues, and its presence at the biennial raises the question of if this is a possible course by which Brazilian art could escape the pull of internationalism. Amaral emphasizes that this work was made by a group of artists in northeast Brazil (Etsedrón is indeed an inverted reading of “Nordeste”], a “closed” region, isolated from urban centers, where the culture of a mestizaje formed during the colonial era (of Spanish, Indians, and Africans) that survives intact. Amaral argues for the installation’s value and its contemporary relevance, describing its earthy palette, its linear character, and how it depicts a field of battle. She concludes by reminding us that, even though her description would suggest that Etsedrón is related to Arte Povera or even a type of Primitivism popular in the United States at that time, it is unrelated to these internationalist trends already quoted. Instead, Amaral argues that Etsedrón represents the “first cry” in the effort for Brazil to achieve its own mode of artistic expression.




This text by the Brazilian critic and art historian Aracy [Abreu] Amaral originally appeared in the April-June 1976 issue of Revista Artes Visuales, a journal published in Mexico City under the editorial care of Carla Stellweg. It initiated a debate about the value of the controversial installation, Etsedrón, and what its presence at the 1975 (XIII) São Paulo Biennial meant for the development of Brazilian and Latin American art. Responses to Amaral’s text by critics such as Peruvian Juan Acha or Uruguayan María Luisa Torrens, and Mexican sculptor Manuel Felguérez were published in the same issue of Revista Artes Visuales, so that the work Etsedrón became the lynchpin for a debate initiated by Amaral, about finding a way for Latin American art to escape the pull of internationalism. As Amaral notes in her text, audiences at the São Paulo Biennial, by the early 1970s, had grown accustomed to seeing works of art that could have been made in Europe or New York. Besides its value as a compelling work of art, Amaral argues that Etsedrón’s appearance at the biennialdramatized the need for Latin American critics to develop new criteria for judging and understanding works produced by contemporary Latin American artists. It is notable that Amaral cites both Marta Traba (1923-83) and Jorge Romero Brest (1905-89) in this text, as both were key critics in the debate about internationalism in Latin American art during this period.


María C. Gaztambide; Harper Montgomery, collaborator
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA
Courtesy of personal archives of Aracy A. Amaral, São Paulo, Brazil