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In this bilingual essay, Cuban poet and art critic Ricardo Pau-Llosa argues that Latin American painting and photography are inextricably linked by the presence of thematic similarities and shared motifs, despite their obvious formal differences. According to him, the introduction of photography to Latin America is predated by the establishment of the region’s structures of visual thought; in particular, its preoccupation with metaphor, the infinite, the unconscious, death, and violence as they apply to previous concepts, and subordination of medium-reflexive tendencies to thematic investigation. Pau-Llosa suggests that the art of Latin America must be approached from a perspective emphasizing language rather than visual or physical phenomena, and whose content—not form—for Latin American artists is a primary unifying and identifying cultural element. He identifies a concern with both the infinite and the oneiric dimensions of consciousness as major unifying themes of the Latin American aesthetic. He thus places Latin American artists in dialogue with one another, comparing the works of such diverse figures as Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Marcel Kalisch, Andrés Serrano, Claudio Bravo, Joaquín Torres-Garcia, and many others. Ultimately, Pau-Llosa suggests that Latin American art cannot be approached on North American terms, and that, rather than Duchampian self-reflexivity, Latin American art, whether painting or photography, takes advantage of meta-representation to expand its artistic media.
Ricardo Pau-Llosa was born in Havana in 1954, and immigrated to the United States in 1960. He is a poet and art critic who has written extensively on Latin American art including on Cuban art of exile. This introduction appears in exhibition catalog, New Traditions: Thirteen Hispanic Photographers = Nuevas Tradiciones: Trece Fotografos Latinoamericanos, organized by the New York State Museum in 1988. The document serves as evidence of an invaluable effort by Pau-Llosa to highlight the similarities between modes of Latin American visual thought and the identifying bonds, affinities, and parallels among media whose differences have been thoroughly documented.