Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

In this article, Brazilian critic Marc Bercowitz reflects on the role of art criticism in Latin America, considering that a new group of young international-quality artists has emerged in Peru. Bercowitz perceives their understandable discontent at “an atmosphere hardly auspicious to greater artistic development” due partly to the “indifference” on the part of the general public and, more specifically, of the local press and critics. Bercowitz points out that the role of critics “is not the same here as in more artistically developed countries.” The critic in Latin America must, in his view, “help to create an environment of understanding and interest in which the artist can produce truly positive works.” Hence, critics should have a professional attitude towards their task “rather than indulge a dilettante’s fancy or comply with expectations born of friendship.” He also believes that their assessments should be geared to “encouraging quality”; “the critic in the Americas […] cannot afford the luxury of adhering to a certain school or group.” What should be fended off, in these circumstances, is “reactionary academicism, […] ‘pastiches,’ and anything that turns art into a political weapon.” In his opinion, there is a fundamental difference between Western countries and developing countries: “European critics are working for the future, but we do not yet have a present, and it is our moral duty to construct one.”

Annotations

In late 1955, Brazilian critic Marc Bercowitz visited Lima briefly. While there, he took part in the debates on abstract art polarizing the Peruvian art scene at the time. In this short article, Bercowitz asserts that a new generation of international-quality artists in Peru had come to his attention. Paradoxically, those young artists must struggle against the animosity of the local press. He asserts that art critics in Latin America must focus on supporting their artists and on ensuring the quality of works—conditions basic to putting together a still nonexistent institutionality. This text represented a direct attack on the stance against abstraction of many Lima-based critics, among them eminent writer Sebastián Salazar Bondy (1924–65). Indeed, the “informative” criticism Bercowitz extolled was formalist in nature and, as such, akin to the vision of Salazar Bondy’s rival, modern theorist and architect Luis Miró Quesada Garland (1914–94). In fact, Bercowitz’s article was published in Miró Quesada Garland’s weekly column in El Comercio newspaper. In his response to Bercowitz, Salazar Bondy defended the work of his colleagues in Lima [see in ICAA digital archive the article “Sobre un artículo de M. Bercowitz: el periodismo, la crítica y el arte” (doc. no. 1137975)], and the commitment necessary to anything worthy of calling itself criticism.

 

The next year, Bercowitz would reaffirm his interest in new art from Peru by advocating the exhibition of work by painter Fernando de Szyszlo (b. 1925) and sculptor Joaquín Roca Rey (1923–2004) held at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro (MAM-RJ).

Researcher
Ricardo Kusunoki
Team
Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima, Peru