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    Voluntad de forma / Octavio Paz
    Los privilegios de la vista II : arte de México / Octavio Paz. --- México D.F., México : Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1995
    p. 23- 25
    Book/pamphlet article – Essays
    Paz, Octavio. "Voluntad de forma." In Los privilegios de la vista II, 23- 25. México D.F., México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1995.

In “Voluntad de forma,” Octavio Paz, who was a Mexican poet, essayist, and diplomat examines Mexican art and culture as a product of the “voluntad de forma,” or the will to give form to the fleeting, which he associates with the essential will to live. Paz begins by analyzing the geography and shape of Mexico, and by likening the country to a bridge between the United States and South America. Paz claims that a recent exhibition of Mexican art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York exemplifies Mexico’s role as a link between North and South America. Paz compares Mexican geography to the national history, claiming that the pattern of Mexican history is a cycle of ruptures and reconciliations. He attributes this cycle to the Mexican will to live, or more precisely, to survive. According to Paz, art is the most essential demonstration of the will to survive because the art object materializes and eternalizes that which is immaterial or corroded by the passage of time. Applying this concept to the analysis of the exhibition of Mexican art and artifacts, Paz explains that the jaguar head statues of the Olmec people, seventeenth-century gilded angels, and the violent coloring of an oil painting by Rufino Tamayo have little in common stylistically, however, all manifest the will to survive through form, and exhibit a distinct Mexican sensibility.


Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat Octavio Paz (1914–1998) was raised in Mexico City. At the age of nineteen Paz published his first book of poetry. He distinguished himself with the publication of Bajo tu clara sombra y otros poemas, a series of poems that reflect on his visit to Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Paz published volumes of poetry, essays, literary criticism, and prose, and also served as an editor for literary publications. His published volumes of poetry include No pasaran! (1937), Libertad bajo palabra (1949), ¿Águila o sol? (1951), and Piedra de sol (1957). He also produced volumes of essays and literary criticism including El laberinto de la soledad (1950), El arco y la lira (1956), and Las peras del olmo (1957). El laberinto de la soledad is a collection of nine essays on Mexican identity and history in which Paz depicted Mexicans as stuck between their Pre-Columbian and Spanish identities. Paz also wrote art criticism and poetry dedicated to the artists Balthus, Antoni Tàpies, Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp, Roberto Matta, and Robert Rauschenberg. In 1945 Paz became part of Mexico’s diplomatic corps, only to resign in 1968 in protest of Mexico’s violent suppression of student protests. In 1990 Paz received the Nobel Prize in Literature. “Voluntad de forma” reveals Paz’s interest in Mexican identity as seen through artistic practice, history, and geography.

Molly Moog, collaborator
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA
© 1995 by Marie José Paz. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.