Day, Holliday T. and Hollister Sturges. "Prologue." In Art of the Fantastic: Latin America, 1920-1987, 10-11. Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1987.
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In this prologue, Holliday T. Day and Hollister Sturges explain how the theme of “the fantastic” underlies the art of the twenty-nine artists included in the exhibition The Art of the Fantastic: Latin America, 1920-1987. They explain how this exhibition was organized in response to the dearth of knowledge of Hispanic art in the United States, and describe the process by which they developed the project by studying the literature, traveling, and conferring with specialists. Day and Sturges describe “the fantastic” as a “mode of expression” that has dominated cultural production throughout Latin America during the twentieth-century. They explain their decision to display a smaller number of artists in depth, rather than attempt to represent all of Latin America, and acknowledge that there are “vital” aspects of the period that they have not addressed, such as geometric abstraction, folk traditions, and muralism as well.
This prologue appeared in the catalog for the exhibition entitled The Art of the Fantastic: Latin America, 1920-1987, which was organized by Holliday T. Day and Hollister Sturges for the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1987. The exhibition traveled to The Queens Museum, the Center for Fine Arts in Miami, and the Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City, and was among the first in a wave of exhibitions of Latin American and Latino art supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In many ways, the organizing rubric of “the fantastic”—its emphasis on surrealism, magical realism, and an irrational and exotic sense of Latin American culture—established a popular framework for the reception of Latin American art in the United States during that decade. By the end of the 1980s and early 90s, the dominance of this framework also provoked substantial criticism on the part of Latin American and Latino critics, generating texts and exhibitions challenging it. The main problem with The Art of the Fantastic turned out to be its unabashed embrace of a North American point of view that lacked factual information about Latin American art and was shaped by long-standing prejudices about the culture of that region. Although Day and Sturges, in this introductory text, do in fact acknowledge the different interpretive lenses of Latin American art historians and audiences, they are unwilling to adjust or expand their methods. When they compare the more “scientific” method of North American critics with the “subjective” approach of their Latin American counterparts, it is clear that the former is deemed superior and thus the proper method for this exhibition catalog. The inferiority of the “Southern viewpoint” is furthermore emphasized by the fact that a text by Carlos Fuentes is included in the catalog under the heading “Another View.”